Worldwide, 46% of all highway fatalities are “vulnerable road users”-pedestrians, cyclists and people on two-wheeled motor vehicles, according to the recent WHO report on road safety.  But we’ve run some numbers and found that in Peru, for instance, pedestrians alone account for 78% of all highway deaths. In the U.S. and India that figure is 12%.

Travelers typically explore their new surroundings on foot, so we think it’s worth investigating where pedestrians run (or should I say walk into?) the highest risks. The chart below shows the countries where pedestrians make up the highest proportion of road deaths.

Look Both Ways - Pedestrians as % of Total Deaths
Look Both Ways – Pedestrians as % of Total Deaths

Joining Peru in the “top twenty” are countries as diverse as Mozambique, El Salvador and the Ukraine. When paired with similar countries, large disparities in risk appear. For instance, Peru (78%) and Ecuador (43%) are Andean neighbors; Mozambique (68%) and Kenya (47%) are East African cousins; El Salvador (63%) and Panama (46%) are Central American siblings, and the Ukraine (56%) and Belarus (40%) are almost Eastern European twins. Why the spread? We’re not sure, but it’s well worth noting.

Even if you’re not traveling to one of these high risk countries, it’s a good bet your pedestrian experience will be very different when you’re abroad, particularly if you’re exploring big cities. Traffic patterns may be novel, sidewalks may be limited, and stoplights or crosswalks are often inadequate or non-existent. Check out these videos of people crossing the street in Vietnam (no death rate data available!): this one has a nice view of traffic pattern, and this one shows the perils even on a crosswalk!

So, wherever you’re walking (and running these risks), here are a few tips:

  • Walk where cars can see you-not behind signs or bushes.
  • Wear visible clothing-resist the urge to wear black at night.
  • Look both ways! If cars drive on the right (like in the U.S.), look left first, then right, then left again before starting to cross. If cars drive on the left, look right, then left, then right again.
  • Face traffic when you are walking on the roads (especially on the more narrow ones) so that you can see approaching vehicles.
  • Assume the motor vehicle always has the right of way.

If you have any tip or experiences that you’d like to share, please do!


About The Author

Emily Moran is a guest contributor to Healthy Travel Blog. During the school year, she is a math teacher and curriculum coordinator at Greene Street Friends School in Philadelphia. During vacation, she travels when she can, and lived and studied abroad in Paris, France while receiving her undergraduate degree. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Haverford College in Mathematics with a minor in French.

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