GO Rentals has unveiled the nation’s first driving simulator designed to replicate the on-road experience for rental car drivers, in a proactive move to improve driver skills and lower the number of crashes nationwide.
Designed and developed by Dunedin business CoDrivr, the simulator is the brainchild of New Zealand Rally Championship driver Rhys Gardner and has been three years in the making, with big ambitions to roll out simulators across the country in partnership with rental vehicle companies, airports, and regional tourism operators.
International research and safety experts have heralded driving simulators as a highly effective way to prepare drivers to handle unpredictable or safety-critical experiences and learn from mistakes in a forgiving environment.
GO Rentals Managing Director James Dalglish said in a statement that while the simulator is set to have huge benefit for international visitors, New Zealand license holders will also be able to gain extra experience on challenging roads before they get behind the wheel.
“Our roads have a reputation for being as challenging as they are scenic, and for many drivers the adjustment to different conditions, formats, and topography around the country can be a formidable experience,” Dalglish said. “We’re committed to instilling confidence and capability into all drivers, not just those visiting from overseas.”
Ministry of Transport data from the 2017 Overseas Driver Crashes Report showed that overseas drivers (those with an overseas drivers licence) were involved in 24 (8%) fatal traffic crashes, 114 (5%) serious injury crashes, and 506 (7%) minor injury crashes in 2016. In comparison, in total in New Zealand that same year there were 286 fatal crashes, 2,099 serious injury crashes, and 7,583 minor injury crashes, indicating that Kiwi drivers also need upskilling when getting behind the wheel.
The report also showed that in about a third of crashes where an overseas driver was at fault, one of the factors that contributed to the crash was the driver failing to adjust to New Zealand rules or conditions. The other factors contributing to overseas driver crashes tended to be the same as those for New Zealanders, such as the driver losing control or failing to give way or stop.
“The [Rental Vehicle Association] welcomes the addition of GO Rentals simulator, which complements other driver safety initiatives the industry has in place to make overseas drivers aware of new driving conditions and rules,” Barry Kidd, CEO if the RVA of New Zeland, said in a statement. “Being able to experience New Zealand roads in a simulated environment will better prepare drivers for New Zealand roads and conditions.”
The driver simulator is located at GO Rentals’ Queenstown branch with additional simulators expected to be in other branches within the year.