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Road Safety Overseas

When traveling abroad there are a variety of issues a potential driver needs to take into consideration. One of them is whether to take public transportation or to drive. Driving in a foreign country involves different laws and potentially higher risks than in one's home country. This is because not only are the laws different, but also the design of cars. For instance, in the United States, the driver's seat is on the left side of the car, while in other countries it's on the right side. Knowing road safety laws and issues in a foreign country is essential to avoiding injuries or trouble with the law.

Driving Risks Overseas

While overseas, Americans will find that there are several risks associated with getting behind the wheel of a car. The risk of a crash is extremely high and is in fact the number one cause of death for international travelers. These crashes are the result of a number of factors that drivers should be aware of and avoid if at all possible. There is, for example, the risk of unsafe, poorly kept vehicles, and roads that are poorly maintained and unsafe for travel. Dangerous or careless driving on the part of locals and tourists are also a risk. Because many foreign countries speak a language other than English, understanding traffic laws can be troublesome. In some cases, there is also the risk of driving on the wrong side of the road.

Local Driving Laws and Culture

Before leaving on a trip that involves driving, people must acquaint themselves with the driving laws for the location that they are traveling to. It isn't enough to only learn the traffic laws for a certain country. Laws can and often do vary from one area to another. Laws to take into consideration are local speeding laws, and laws regarding cell phone usage and texting while driving. Knowing the law regarding drinking and driving is also important, as are street signs. Licensing is another issue that varies depending on location. An International Drivers Pass (IDP) is sufficient in most countries, but may be limited. In Japan, for example, a person may use an IDP for only a certain amount of time before they replace it with a Japanese license.

Renting a Car

The ability to move about freely is important when traveling abroad. While buses, trains, and even taxis are an option in most countries, there is a certain freedom in having a vehicle available whenever it is needed. To rent a car, travelers will need to have their driver's license, or if required, an International Driver's Permit, and insurance. People should check with their current auto insurance coverage provider to determine if their insurance covers car rentals abroad and in which countries. They may also want to check their credit card travel insurance, which may also offer insurance coverage for car rentals. If they are not covered, the car rental agency can provide coverage.

Tips on Driving Abroad

Before traveling, determine whether an IDP is necessary. Most often these are required in countries that do not speak English. To obtain an IDP go to the American Automobile Association or the National Automobile Club. To ensure that an area is safe prior to travel, contact the American Embassy in the country that is being visited to learn about any unrest that could prove troublesome for an American. When driving overseas, people will want to use caution to increase their chances of remaining safe. They should be aware of any weather conditions that could prove detrimental and potentially leave them stranded. Avoid isolated roads and roads that are not found on tourist maps. Night driving is also something to avoid whenever possible, particularly when driving alone. Prepare for driving in other countries by learning their road signs and what they mean. Keep local maps on hand and learn what roads have tolls.