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Road Safety Abroad

Road safety may not be something that ASU students think about when planning their study abroad experience, but it should be. Traffic accidents are a leading cause of death of Americans abroad, particularly among college students. Contrary to popular belief, this is not just a risk of the developing world - 85% of fatal crashes occur in industrialized countries, according to the Association of Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT). ASU strongly recommends against driving any kind of motorized vehicle abroad. Should travelers find themselves in a situation that requires them to drive a vehicle abroad, they should consider the following information.

ASIRT suggests that travelerscan minimize their risk by assessing the road culture in travel areas and implementing safety precautions before traveling by road. For example, travelers should:

  • Select the safest form of transportation in the travel area
  • Avoid late-night road travel in countries with poor safety records and/or mountainous terrain
  • Understand how seasonal hazards affect road conditions
  • Know the dates of local holidays (when road accident rates rise)

Suggestions for pedestrians are:

  • Be aware of traffic patterns in the travel area (they may be very different from those in the U.S.)
  • Be especially alert at intersections
  • Wear reflective clothing if jogging at dusk or dawn (especially in locales where jogging may be uncommon)
  • Do not walk where pedestrians cannot easily be seen
  • Remember that most road fatalities are pedestrians
  • Avoid hitchhiking

Suggestions for passengers are:

  • Avoid riding with a driver who appears intoxicated, irrational, or over-tired
  • Always ride in the back seat of a taxi cab
  • Wear seat belts whenever possible

While many travelers may be tempted to rent cars, mopeds, or motorbikes during their time abroad, they often do so without regard to the risks of driving in a country whose rules of the road are unfamiliar. Although it may seem fun or convenient to travel this way, ASU strongly recommends against driving any kind of motorized vehicle abroad. 

Road travel in some developing countries poses additional road risks. Public transportation in some areas may consist of overcrowded, overweight, and top-heavy minivans or buses. Taxis may not appear to be in good condition, and drivers may or may not be licensed. Sidewalks may or may not be lit, or exist at all. In these cases, follow the advice of the on-site staff, program provider, travel agent, or other responsible party administering your study abroad program. They can teach you how to minimize your risk when selecting various modes of transportation.

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