Driving Safety Abroad
Driving Safety Abroad
By Peter Greenberg
No matter how comfortable you are behind the wheel, driving in a foreign country requires vigilance and an understanding of the local terrain, not to mention local customs. And unfortunately, not everyone pays attention.
According to the World Health Organization, 1.24 million people die in road crashes each year and an additional 20-50 million are injured or disabled. The U.S. Department of State estimates that more than 200 Americans are killed in road accidents abroad each year. And that’s a conservative figure that doesn’t include people injured in accidents overseas who then pass away after returning to the U.S., nor does it include members of the military or government diplomats.
The Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT) is a non-profit NGO that’s dedicated to promoting road safety around the globe. Rochelle Sobel founded the organization in 1995, after the death of her son in a Turkish bus crash.
Sadly, road accidents like this aren’t uncommon, for both locals and foreign visitors. In 2011, the United Nations implemented the Decade of Action for Road Safety, with the goal of raising safety standards and services for victims around the globe.
A recent UN report revealed some staggering numbers, including the fact that only 28 countries–covering 7 percent of the world’s population–have comprehensive road safety laws regarding drinking and driving, speeding, failing to use motorcycle helmets, seat-belts and child restraints.
As a traveler, your best bet is to educate yourself on the rules of the road everywhere you travel and then be prepared to drive defensively. ASIRT provides country-specific Road Travel Reports that include details on driver behavior, general conditions in both urban and rural roads, and recommendations and warnings on public transportation.
The State Department has some additional tips on international driving safety as well as country-by-country reports on travel and transportation that offer some insight into local driving cultures. (For example, Turkish drivers pass on the right side as well as the left.)
Last, but not least, there is no such thing as an international driver’s license, but there is an International Driving Permit, which can help you communicate with foreign authorities in an emergency. Valid in more than 150 countries, the permit contains your name, photo and driver information translated into several languages.