25 April 2008
Road traffic accidents during international travel – reducing the risk
Advice for travellers
Road traffic accidents (RTAs) are an important cause of injury and death in international travellers and young travellers are at greatest risk [1,2]. The recent tragic RTAs in South America and Europe involving British travellers, serve as a reminder of this.
The World Health Organization estimates that 1.2 million people are killed and 20-50 million people are injured worldwide every year as a result of RTAs [3,4]. Most of these deaths and injuries occur in low- and middle-income countries [3,4].
Travellers can reduce their risk of RTAs by considering the following common-sense points and taking the advised preventative actions:
- Lack of familiarity with road conditions, driving culture and road rules may pose dangers for British travellers abroad. Pedestrians are vulnerable as road users and should be particularly alert when crossing roads. British travellers driving abroad should take time to familiarise themselves with their vehicle and route before embarking on a foreign road trip .
- Road conditions may be hazardous, with poor road surfaces and inadequate lighting. Travel by motor vehicle, motorcycle or bicycle at night should generally be avoided.
- Local driving technique may be poor with drivers having little regard for pedestrians or other drivers.
- Seat belts, child restraints and cycle helmets should always be used when provided.
- Accidents involving buses are well known. Journeys should only be undertaken with reputable transport companies.
- Vehicles for hire may be of variable standards and should be checked for roadworthiness (with particular attention to brakes and lights).
- Travellers should not drive after consuming alcoholic beverages nor accept lifts from drivers of public or private transport vehicles who are known or presumed to have consumed alcohol. Pedestrian travellers are especially vulnerable to accidents following ingestion of alcohol.
Further information on staying safe and healthy abroad can be found on the FCO website.
1. Guse CE, Cortes LM, Hargarten SW, Hennes HM. Fatal injuries of US citizens abroad. J Travel Med 2007;14:279-87.
2. McInnes RJ, Williamson LM, Morrison A. Unintentional injury during foreign travel: a review. JTM 2002;9(6):297-307 .
3. Peden M, Scurfield R, Sleet D, eds. World Health Organization. World report on road traffic injury prevention 2004; Geneva, Switzerland available at http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/publications/road_
4. World Health Organization. World report on road traffic injury prevention: main messages [online], 2004 available at http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/publications/road_
5. Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Driving abroad. Available at: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travelling-and-living-overseas/staying-safe/driving-abroad
NaTHNaC Health Information Sheet on Personal safety abroad http://www.nathnac.org/pro/factsheets/personal.htm