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The Dangers of Driving When Visiting Other Countries

Since 1979, September 27th has been deemed World Tourism Day by the United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of tourism—the UN World Tourism Organization [UNWTO].

While engaged in promoting competitive and sustainable tourism policies, fostering tourism education and training, and helping tourism be an effective tool for development in over 100 countries around the world, generating market knowledge is a foundational activity indicating that tourism:

• represents almost 10% of global GDP

• is responsible for one in every eleven jobs worldwide

• is the fourth largest export sector in the world after fuels, chemicals, and food, but notably ahead of automotive products, generating over US$1.5 trillion a year in exports.

• for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) accounts for 7% of exports of goods and services and 10% for the non-fuel exporters

• in 2014, over 1.1 billion international tourists traveled the globe

• by 2030, this number is expected to reach 1.8 billion.

Tourists travel for lots of reasons: to sightsee, to work, and to study, and use a mix of transportation modes, but always, at some point, road travel. Inevitably, tourism growth has resulted in more tourists being killed or injured on the roads while traveling.

While Road Rules could find no definitive statistics, this increasing number has prompted the creation of organizations such as the Association for Safe International Road Travel [ASIRT], a 20-year-old US-based organization that works with “governments in the US and abroad, corporations, the education abroad community and NGOs to help reduce road crash injuries and deaths and the associated social and economic impacts.”

The ASIRT website—asirt.org—includes a leisure travel page noting that, “Americans are traveling increasingly to countries where the chances of being killed or seriously injured may be from 20 to 40 times greater than in the US. Road crashes are the single greatest cause of death for healthy Americans traveling abroad.” US State Department statistics set this number at 750 deaths in the last three years.

In the last two decades, the number of students studying abroad in credit-earning programs has “more than tripled,” according to a recent article in the New York Times to “304,500 in the 2013-14 academic year and the number studying in non-European countries has nearly doubled …to 118,625 …”

Student travel has prompted the creation of ProtectStudentsAbroad.org, a website started by two mothers who each had a son killed while studying abroad—although not in road accidents—“to help families obtain the safety records of study abroad programs.” The New York Times article includes profiles of families whose college and university-aged children while studying abroad, were killed in road crashes.

If you have foreign travel plans, Road Rules highly recommends the road safety information available on the above-noted websites, particularly if you intend visiting any LDC country. Poorly engineered roads, weak, unenforced traffic laws, improperly-trained drivers, and old, badly maintained vehicles create hazards we are not used to encountering on North American roads and in other developed world jurisdictions.

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