A WELSH rugby fan will appear in Hamilton District Court today on serious driving charges after a Cambridge teenager died from injuries suffered in a collision with the tourist's campervan.
Elizabeth Neels, 18, died in Waikato Hospital on Saturday. Her car and the campervan had collided between Hamilton and Cambridge on Thursday night.
Police confirmed yesterday the Welshman, 24, had been charged with dangerous driving causing death, and dangerous driving causing injury in relation to two passengers in the campervan. Police allege the campervan had crossed the centre line.
Waikato road policing manager Inspector Leo Tooman said the rugby fan and two companions had arrived in Auckland earlier on Thursday after a 36-hour flight from Britain. They got the van at 10.30am and spent the afternoon in Auckland before heading south about 5.30pm. The crash happened two hours later at Karapiro. The driver's two companions were asleep in the back of the van.
"They planned to share the driving but they didn't get that far, unfortunately. They've probably been saving for this trip for years and it was all over on day one."
Fatigue was a big factor in the crash, Mr Tooman said. Added to that was that New Zealand roads were different to those they were probably used to. " We have very few central dividing median barriers and you make a mistake, cross that centre line and if a a car's coming the other way it's history."
Mr Tooman said their were up to 1500 rental vans on New Zealand roads and he advised all drivers to take special care. He was unsure what advice was given out by the rental car firms. They reminded people of the need to stay left and gave out booklets on how to drive safely, but he was unsure whether those coming off long-haul flights were told to have a good rest first.
Automobile Association secretary-general George Fairbairn said accidents involving tourists were a worry. Those helping people to plan their intineries should be advising tourists to take their time to adjust to local driving conditions, he said.
Mr Fairburn said that he had heard of people being given itineries which had them arriving at Auckland Airport overnight, picking up a vehicle by 9am, travelling to Waitomo and getting to Rotorua that night.
It was a trap for tourists who might not realise the distances involved, that New Zealand did not have motorways and that the roads were narrow and winding. " It's a pattern...too many tourists don't take that first day in New Zealand to adjust, catch up on sleep, get used to our environment and take off on their travels on the next day. "
© 2005 The Dominion Post.