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Road Safety

Road safety is not something that travelers necessarily think about in planning their experiences abroad, but in fact, traffic accidents are a leading cause of death of Americans abroad, particularly for college students. Contrary to popular belief, 85% of fatal crashes occur in industrialized countries, according to the Association of Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT). Travelers can minimize their risk by assessing the road culture in travel areas and implementing safety precautions.

ASIRT suggests that travelers:

  • Select the safest form of transportation in your 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)

Additional suggestions for pedestrians are:

  • Be aware of traffic patterns in your 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 you cannot easily be seen
  • Remember that most road fatalities are pedestrians
  • Avoid hitchhiking

Additional 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

We understand that many travelers are tempted to rent cars, mopeds, or motorbikes during their time abroad, but often do so without regard to the risks of driving in a country whose rules of the road are unfamiliar. However economical or entertaining this may seem, Northwestern University strongly recommends against renting 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. Taxicabs 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 travel experience. They can teach you how to minimize your risk when selecting various modes of transportation.

For more information about safe international road travel, visit the Association for Safe International Road Travel website