According to the U.S. State Department, around 1.17 million people die each year in car accidents. Around 70% of deaths occur in developing countries, and 65% involve pedestrians. Around 50 million more people are injured each year in road collisions across the world, says the World Health Organization. Road accidents are often overlooked, says Dr. Brian Terrya, a travel medicine specialist. Travelers often ask about immunizations, but rarely do they consider road risks. Experts say the “vacation mentality” is to blame.
“People get into cabs [on vacation] and don’t fasten their seat belts, if there is a seat belt,” Terry says. And sometimes, “they are too shy to tell the driver to slow down.” He advises travelers communicate their safety concerns while on vacation as well as educating themselves in which destinations are considered more dangerous than others, such as Africa, Turkey, or Baja, Mexico.
According to news reports, many organizations offer road safety information, including the State Department, WHO, the Automobile Club of Southern California and the Assn. for Safe International Road Travel, founded by the mother of a young man who was killed during a bus crash in Turkey. The association offers reports that detail road conditions and help you decide if driving is safe. “In some countries, including Mexico, some drivers don’t use their headlights at night because they are afraid of running down the battery or the headlights don’t work,” says Bonnie Ramsey, a researcher at the organization.
I urge travelers to always use a seat belt, drive safely while on vacation and demand that a cab driver not exceed speed limits.