Kiwis are turning vigilante against “dangerous” foreign drivers

Kiwis are blowing their tops.
Kiwis are blowing their tops.
Image: Reuters/Bogdan Cristel
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New Zealanders upset with a recent spate of grisly traffic accidents have begun flagging down bad drivers—especially foreign tourists—and confiscating their car keys.

In the past month there have been more than 10 reported traffic accidents involving foreign travelers, several of which were fatal, and there have been at least four reports of Kiwis forcibly taking tourists’ car keys and handing them over to the police.

Most of the accidents and key confiscations took place on the west coast of the country’s South Island, whose scenic and windy roads are a popular destination for driving holidays. Foreigners account for 37% of serious traffic accidents in the region.

Chinese tourists, who are increasingly flocking to New Zealand, have been involved in several crashes and confrontations. A man from Beijing is facing charges after a crash this week that killed a 5-year-old New Zealand girl. In January a driver from the mainland appeared in court after he failed to stop for police when he was spotted repeatedly driving on the wrong side of the road, including around blind corners.

In February, a Beijing family of five was forced to take a chartered plane for the remainder of their trip after a local driver took a video of their rental car driving on the wrong side of the road, and then confiscated their keys and handed them over to police.

Last week, four Chinese tourists swam to safety after crashing their SUV into a river. And other nationalities have had their own mishaps: the same day, three Germans landed their car upside down in a creek.

The police are urging New Zealanders not to resort to vigilante key confiscations. Law enforcement officials described a Feb. 28 attack on a tourist as “a nasty offense,” after he was punched in the face by a local man who took his keys. An area mayor said the ”extremist behavior” was “disgraceful” and “inappropriate.”