Most people are concerned about catching a foreign disease when they go abroad. They are worried that their immune systems will be unable to fend off viruses that don’t exist in the U.S. Most of the dangerous diseases can be vaccinated against and other diseases can be staved off by taking precautions when eating or drinking.
Another common concern before embarking on a trip that involves international travel is the worry that some form of violence may inadvertently happen. Everything from robberies to physical altercations resulting in bodily harm can cause a traveler to stress out about their holiday destination.
But according to a recent study, both these worries pale in comparison to the biggest safety threat to international travelers: road accidents.
The study found that between 2003 and 2009, more Americans died as the result of crashes involving cars or motorcycles than from any event related to crimes or terrorist attacks.
A lot of money has been spent over the past decade to educate travelers about the risks associated with violent crimes when traveling abroad. These initiatives appear to have worked as the number of homicides that have taken the lives of travelers has been significantly reduced. Likewise, initiatives aimed at educating people about the dangers of infectious diseases or other medical health risks abroad have also been largely successful.
After measuring deaths per one million visits to a country by American travelers, the research team found some interesting results. There were 5,417 unnatural deaths during the six-year study period.
What accounted for these deaths?
● Seven Americans were murdered in the Philippines in 2007 and 11 in 2008
● 13 deaths occurred per million American visits in Columbia
● 11 deaths per million occurred in the Dominican Republic
● 5 deaths were recorded in Thailand and Morocco
The research team found, however (with the exception of the Philippines), that more Americans died from road crashes in all of the 160 countries surveyed than from homicides.
The number of traffic fatalities in Thailand topped off at 16 deaths per million visits, followed by Vietnam which recorded 15 fatal road accidents per million visits. Most of these deaths involved the use of motorcycles or scooters. There were 12 deaths in Morocco, 11 deaths in South Africa, and 10 deaths in Indonesia per million visits.
The researchers noted that the cause of road fatalities changes in different parts of the world. In Africa, for example, pedestrian deaths are more common. In Southeast Asia, motorcycle and bicycle deaths account for most road fatalities.
If you’re driving abroad, consider taking local transit options. Let professional drivers do the driving. You may pay a little more for transportation, but hopefully you’ll be a lot safer than if you tried to negotiate busy streets in a foreign city by yourself, or with a local driver not associated with any company.
Trips to the countryside could pose hazardous risks as well depending on road conditions. Many countries experience sudden rain storms or other adverse weather conditions that can seriously hamper your ability to drive safely.
Exercise caution when renting mopeds or motorcycles. Unless you have training in riding these vehicles, your safety could be very much at risk as you try to learn vehicle operation while “on-the-fly.” When crossing streets, be very careful. Don’t throw caution to the wind in the excitement of being in a different country. Look at traffic flow from all angles before stepping onto any street.
Raven, K., “Road crashes biggest killer of Americans abroad,” MedlinePlus web site, Dec. 13, 2013; Friday, December 13, 2013; http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/motorvehiclesafety.html, last accessed Dec. 24, 2013.
“Top 20 Safe Driving Tips,” Independent Traveller.com web site; http://www.independenttraveler.com/travel-tips/car-travel/top-20-safe-driving-tips, last accessed Dec. 24, 2013.