Road Safety for International Travel

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Travelers face many risks when heading abroad. Some risks, like those posed by endemic diseases, are well known and easily avoided. Healthy travelers face the greatest threat to their lives, however, from motor vehicle crashes. Allowing the traveler an unparalleled amount of freedom and mobility, road trips can be the best way to see a foreign country, but if you plan to drive or ride abroad, you should take precautions to keep yourself safe.

Most of the 1.3 million deaths caused by vehicle accidents every year occur in developing countries. While not all of these crashes involve tourists, it is a good idea to take extra care when travelling to these countries. Roads may not be in good repair, traffic laws may go unenforced or unfollowed, and emergency care after an accident may take a long time to arrive and might not live up to standards in the developed world. Drivers may also find unexpected hazards like livestock in the road and poor or missing signage.

Taking steps to avoid an accident is therefore the best way to keep safe on the road. You should always use seat belts and car seats, avoid riding a motorcycle whenever possible, and make sure you are familiar with local traffic laws, which vary greatly. If you choose to take a taxi, be sure to use a marked vehicle equipped with seat belts. Avoid driving or riding in a car at night in the developing world, and be careful of overcrowded or overweight buses and vans, especially those that are top heavy. Even if you never get behind the wheel, be wary of motorists, and remember that in some countries, cars drive on the left-hand side of the road, which means that they may come from the opposite direction you expect if you live in the United States.

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