Did you know that the single-greatest cause of death for healthy Americans traveling abroad is road crashes? If you are planning to get behind the wheel during your next trip overseas, here are other statistics you should keep in mind. Research done by the U.S. State Department reveals that 1.17 million people die every year in road accidents worldwide. In 2005, that included 200 Americans killed in accidents abroad. Another 50 million are injured every year in road accidents, according to the World Health Organization. The majority of traffic deaths — 70 percent — take place in developing countries and 65 percent involve pedestrians.
And while most people ask about immunizations before they travel overseas, few consider the safety issues they might encounter on the road once they get there. Travel experts call it “ vacation mentality.” Basically, we go on vacation to escape from our troubles and we don’t want to have to think too much about anything. Of course, after realizing the potential hazards of having that kind of mind set, it pays to be prepared.
Here are some tips to remember before taking to the roads while you are overseas:
· Do research. Learn about a country’s driving culture before you go. Find out what the safest mode of transportation is in the country you are visiting. Ask yourself: “Do they obey stop signs?” “Do traffic signs mean anything in that country?” “Do they use traffic lights?”
· Consult a travel professional. Some travel companies sell reports on traffic conditions in foreign countries to help travelers better assess the risks on foreign roads.
· If you plan to drive in other countries, check with your auto insurance company to see if your policy is valid outside the United States.
· If you are renting a car, ask if the vehicle has seat belts and air bags. Ask to see the car’s maintenance records. Check the tires. Look under the hood.
· If you decide to take a tour bus, ask to see the company’s safety records. Make sure the drivers are licensed. You may also want to ask if the drivers have time limits on how long they can drive without resting.
· Learn to say “stop” and “slow down” in the native language.
· If you are taking a taxi, ask if there are working seat belts.
Several websites offer more information on safe international travel, including the State Department, the World Health Organization, the American Automobile Association and the Association for Safe International Road Travel.