safedrivingSince we have been mining the WHO’s road safety report in our recent posts, let’s talk about preparing to drive safely when you’re abroad.  Though there are many things beyond your control, a little preparation goes a long way for the safe and healthy traveler. So if you expect to be driving on your next trip, consider these tips:

Know the road rules for the country in which you will be traveling.  Are right turns allowed at red lights (or left if you are driving on the other side of the road)?  Do pedestrians always have the right of way?  What are the usual speed limits ? How are they enforced? What traffic signs are utilized? For some good information on country specific traffic safety and road conditions check out the U.S. Department of State’s Road Safety Overseas page. 

  • Familiarize yourself with the metric system (after all the U.S. is the exception).  Barry Goldsmith, a creator of tours for General Tours recounts an episode when he was pulled over  for driving too slowly because he was thinking in miles, not kilometers. 
  • Don’t assume your rental car will be equipped with standard safety features. Be sure to ask for a car that has functioning airbags and front and rear seatbelts.  If you are traveling with a child, you should bring your own child safety seat because the ones you encounter abroad are often below the standards you expect. You may need additional safety materials to adhere to local laws. For instance, there is a law in France that requires cars to have a reflective vest in   the passenger area and a hazard triangle in the trunk at all times.  
  • Don’t assume that your auto insurance will cover you when you are abroad.  Check with your agent and check with the facility from which you will be renting to make sure you have the proper coverage. For example, according to AAA, U.S. motorists in Canada need to obtain a Non-Resident Inter-Province Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance Card that can be used as evidence of financial responsibility in Canada in the event of an accident. 
  • Pack directions and maps so you can focus on driving instead of trying to figure out where you are going.  Better yet, bring along a portable GPS device or a smartphone that has this built-in.  Make sure that it covers the area of the world where you will be.
  • Locate the windshield wipers, headlights and emergency brake when you get behind the wheel and learn how they function.
  • Don’t forget to pack your glasses or contacts, especially if you need to drive at night. Some advise against driving at night in unfamiliar countries. It’s hard enough to navigate the roads and the laws in the daylight, under the cover of darkness, it becomes more difficult.  Finally, an obvious, but still necessary piece of advice: don’t forget to bring your driver’s license!  If you have any other advice you’d like to share, we’d like to hear it.
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