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Global Road Safety

Sound Departure - Global Road Strategy

While planning an international trip most people think about travel vaccines, but few people consider the possibility that they might be involved in a car crash or other road injury. Every 6 seconds someone is killed or seriously injured on the world’s roads. With 1.3 million road deaths each year this is a global epidemic comparable to malaria or tuberculosis. Nearly 9 out 10 of these casualties occur in low- or middle-income countries, and 25,000 of the deaths are among tourists. Half of those people killed in crashes are pedestrians, motorcyclists, and cyclists. Nearly half of medical evacuations back to the United States are the result of a road injury, and a medical evacuation can cost upward of $100,000.

The increased risk of road injury or death is often due to many factors. Often times, roads in developing countries are poorly maintained, and traffic laws may be inconsistently followed or enforced. If you are injured, emergency care may not be readily available or it may take a long time to get to a hospital that can provide appropriate care. Even then, the care you receive may not be up to US standards.

Travelers often drive a vehicle in a foreign country without being sufficiently informed of local traffic laws. They may be driving vehicles (such as rented motorcycles or scooters) that they do not know how to properly operate. Oftentimes travelers on vacation engage in risky behaviors, such as drinking and driving, that they would never do at home.

Steps for Safety While Traveling Abroad

There are several things you can do to minimize your risk of being injured in a crash or on the road while you are traveling abroad.

  • Always wear seatbelts and put children in car seats in the back seat of your vehicle.
  • Avoid riding in a car in a developing country at night.
  • Don't ride motorcycles or scooters. If you must ride a motorcycle, wear a helmet.
  • Know local traffic laws before you get behind the wheel.
  • Ride only in marked taxis that have seat-belts.
  • Avoid overcrowded, overweight, or top-heavy buses or vans.
  • Be alert when crossing the street, especially in countries where people drive on the left. Don't assume you have the right of way.

Following these tips is the best way you can keep from getting injured while on the road and ensure a safe and healthy vacation.

United Nations Road Safety Collaboration

On 11 May 2011, the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 was launched in more than 100 countries, with one goal: to prevent five million road traffic deaths globally by 2020. Momentum for international action to reduce road traffic casualties is growing. Now is the time for the vast tourism sector, and those governments whose economies rely on international tourism for much of their growth and development, to work to improve safety on the roads for visitors and their own populations alike. Bad Trip, a very informative report on international tourism and road deaths in the developing world, was recently published by the Make Roads Safe Campaign, a broad-based coalition, including public health bodies, motoring organizations, road safety NGOs and international organizations.

Safe travels,
Dr. Y. Marc Bellis