Road safety_AfricaWhen you stop and look at the statistics, it becomes clear that it’s a big dangerous world out there. Particularly for international travelers when they take to the roadways. According to the Association for Safe Internal Road Travel (ASIRT), more than 3,200 people die in road crashes every day around the globe. That’s 1.3 million people a year. An additional 20 million (at least) are injured in road crashes annually.

According to Rochelle Sobel, Founder and President of ASIRT, the problem of unsafe roads is most acute in developing and mid-economic countries. Ninety percent of the world’s fatal crashes occur in these countries… which have less than half of the world’s cars.

“These are countries where there is high motorization,” said Sobel in an interview with Healthy Travel Blog. “The road population is very young; they tend to be the riskiest drivers because they don’t have the experience, they are often the first drivers in their families and don’t have someone to model. [Additionally,] many vehicles on the road are not road worthy – tires are low or they don’t have the proper safety mechanisms in place.”

The problem for travelers – especially those from the U.S., is that all the rules and accepted practices you’ve learned through the years frequently don’t apply.

“Tourists are often unaware of the risks of they are taking,” said Sobel. “They may not know the law, but they also may not know the ‘road culture.’[For instance,] a stop light means nothing in certain countries.”

In short, mayhem often rules the road in many places around the globe.

To help travelers safely navigate the world’s roads, Sobel offers these tips:

  1. Know before you go. Sobel advises travelers to conduct research before heading out of the country to get a better idea of a country’s road safety record. The ASIRT website is a good resource for this.
  2. Avoid night travel and travel in mountainous regions in countries with poor safety records. This is especially true if you don’t know the area. Finding your way on strange roads with different laws and customs can be very hazardous for your health.
  3. When renting a car, insist on the best safety features. A lot of familiar car models will have different safety features in developing countries; if the car companies are not required by law to include them, they’ll often skimp on them. Also, check the tires to make sure they’re in good shape and ask about brake inspections.
  4. Start your road trip during the day. Sobel advises that it’s much easier to get to know a rental vehicle when the sun is up and you can see where everything is in the car.
  5. Just because you aren’t in a vehicle doesn’t mean you can let your guard down. Sobel calls pedestrians “vulnerable road users” – more than half of traffic fatalities involve pedestrians and bicyclists. She advises pedestrians to watch the locals as they walk along the streets to determine when it’s safe to cross, etc.
  6. If you’re in a bus or a van and it’s overcrowded, get out at the first opportunity.
  7. Never assume you have the right of way. “I was just in Africa, and they said the pedestrian never has the right of way,” said Sobel.
  8. Don’t hitchhike. Ever.

Photo by the World Bank.

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About The Author

John Miller is president of ScribeWise. He is an avid traveler and web-surfing junkie. Visit www.scribewise.com.

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