The Dangers of Traveling by Road in
An article by
Go to the ADA Website Contents Page
has always carried an aura of risk to go along with the excitement it can
provoke but few people realize that the danger of being injured or killed while
traveling by road in other countries is commonly the biggest risk we face
one that is statistically worse than any likelihood of dying overseas through
violence or disease.
estimated 25,000 people are killed in road accidents each year while
they are either working or on vacation, abroad, and this number is
rising fast. An obvious question, therefore, is how can you
help to protect yourself or your loved ones in such a situation.
thing to remember is that poorer, less-developed countries typically
have much higher rates of road deaths and injuries than do their
richer counterparts, so the more adventurous your travel plans the
more danger you are likely to face on the roads. This problem
is compounded by the fact that poorer countries usually have less
quantity and quality in their hospital and ambulance services, too,
and any badly injured person who cannot be transported safely to an
adequate hospital within one hour of being injured
– a time limitation known as the
"golden hour" – is much more likely to die.
No.1 Especially if you will be traveling "off the beaten
track" make sure that at least two people in your group learn First
Aid, in depth, before you go, and do take a sensible range of First
Aid supplies with you. Triangular bandages for use in making
slings or splints are an important item, and you can carry several
in a small space. Sterile dressings to put over bleeding
wounds are also important.
Mexico has recently
scaled up its road safety activities including speed limits.
Photo courtesy of WHO; Copyright PAHO
problem for overseas visitors actually comes in two parts: firstly, they
generally do not know the relevant traffic laws and regulations of the country
they are visiting, and secondly the "traffic culture" can be very different,
too. This is in addition to whether or not the relevant traffic laws are
properly enforced and are therefore even obeyed. Pedestrian
crossings/crosswalks, for example, may be thought of as an unbreakable rule in
some countries, a mere suggestion in other countries, and a bad joke in yet
On the "traffic
culture" front, even something as simple as a pedestrian making eye contact with
a driver while crossing the road can have a very different meaning and a
potentially dangerous outcome. In some countries, a driver who gets eye
contact will typically slow down and let a pedestrian cross the road, but in
other countries eye contact indicates that the pedestrian has seen the
approaching vehicle and will wait until it has passed before attempting to
Police corruption is
yet another consideration for anyone who will be driving. Blackmail
passed off as a "fine"
by officers is certainly not unheard of in some countries and spending time in a
police cell can also befall drivers who are involved in collisions.
No.2 Do a serious search of the Internet before you
travel, to look for any official documents
– or at least a website
that appears to be a reliable source of sensible information
– about road safety in the countries
you will be visiting. In the case of Americans who are traveling
abroad, do not just search for "drivers' manuals" because very few
countries use that term. Include a variety of search terms, such as "safe driving" and
"driving rules". Be wary of the fact that, just as here in
the USA, people who actually know nothing worthwhile about genuine
safety measures do tend to put their inaccurate and potentially
dangerous opinions online!
to know the rules in advance can be particularly important if you
intend to drive in a country where traffic travels on the "wrong"
side of the road, compared to where you are from. For American
tourists, this would commonly include Britain so here is a
link to the UK Highway Code.
Any drivers who are visiting the USA should go to our
State-by-State Traffic Laws
and Safety Guidelines page.)
No.3 If you are going to be driving on what to you is the
"wrong side of the road" there is one crucial bit of advice for you
to use. Many British people have been killed in America, for
example, (and vice versa) because they looked the wrong way
when driving out of an intersection/junction and were hit by a
vehicle that was coming from the "wrong" side. The cure for
this is simple. As long as you are driving a vehicle that is
correct for the roads you are on (i.e. with a steering wheel on the
left-hand-side in countries where traffic is driven on the right,
and vice versa) always look to your own driver's side first,
and last, before driving out of an intersection from a stop sign or
a yield/give way sign. Once you get into the habit of checking
"driver's side first and last" before turning, you will always get
this extremely important task right.
If you are back-packing, be very aware that buses and
– even worse – open-backed large trucks and
pick-up trucks that are used as buses and taxis are notoriously
Road crashes are the
main cause of tourist death and injury
cocktail of killer roads, unsafe vehicles, dangerous driving and
disorientated travellers is resulting in thousands of tourist deaths
each year, warns a new report from the FIA Foundation and the Make
Roads Safe campaign, published on 27 September, 2010, World Tourism
The report warns that tourist deaths on the roads, currently
estimated at approximately 25,000 a year, could almost double to
45,000 by 2020 and triple to 75,000 by 2030 as global road deaths
overall are forecast to increase.
deaths are already the number one risk to tourists ahead of
terrorism, plane crashes and infectious disease yet the report finds
that the international tourism industry and tourism organisations
provide little advice to alert tourists to specific road safety
problems in different countries....
full report, from 'Make Roads Safe', at
Buses may seem like a safe bet but they are regularly involved in very tragic
crashes in less-developed countries each year. Even rail travel in some
countries is not particularly safe, but wherever possible it would probably be
wiser to travel by train than by road.
abroad's top risk: Roads
– October 21, 2010
If you plan to rent a vehicle during your travels, it would be very
wise to learn what things need to be checked before you trust your
life to it.
cases, the condition and inflation of the tires is paramount.
Even here in the USA it is quite common for the tires on rental cars
to be seriously over-inflated. After all, over-inflated tires
can resist damage better and are therefore less likely to need
replacement before the car is sold so who cares that significant
braking ability can be lost as long as a rental company maximizes
you remember all of the necessary vehicle checks, Advanced Drivers
of America has created a light-hearted acronym:
DaSH BELT LaWS
(to the vehicle in general... don't rent a wreck!)
(anchored securely and able to adjust easily)
(check for pressure with the car static and again when moving)
(check that all dashboard warning lights come on and go off)
(all lubricants, fuel, coolant and windshield fluid)
(condition, evenly worn, correctness and inflation)
(all lights clean & working)
(all windows clean & clear)
(Acronym and list
copyright 2010, Advanced Drivers of America)
accidents — not terrorism, plane crashes or crime — are the No.
1 killer of healthy Americans traveling abroad, a USA TODAY
analysis of the past 7½ years of State Department data shows.
1,820 Americans, almost a third of all Americans who died of
non-natural causes while abroad, have been reported killed in road
accidents in foreign countries from Jan. 1, 2003, through June 2010.
On average, one American traveler dies on a foreign road every 36
40% of the deaths occurred in Mexico, the analysis shows. The
second-highest number of road fatalities occurred in Thailand, where
relatively few Americans visit. The Dominican Republic, a popular
resort destination, ranked No. 3 in fatalities, followed by Germany
full article, from USA Today, at
Check to see whether your home government has issued any advisory
warnings about road travel (or travel in general) in the countries you plan to visit.
The US Department of State has a site
Similarly, the UK
Foreign and Commonwealth Office [FCO] has a website about safety for young
people travelling abroad alone or in small groups,