Many travellers go out of their way to protect themselves from crime or terrorism in foreign countries, but they do little to prepare for the number-one threat to Americans in foreign countries: driving.
Vehicle crashes kill more travelling Americans than any other threat. Whether you need to prepare yourself for driving on the “wrong” side of the road or look into the right licenses you need for driving, it’s smart to prepare yourself to drive on your vacation or business trip abroad.
In fact, the growing number of driving accidents caused by foreigners driving in an unfamiliar country has caused Chevron to develop the Arrive Alive program, which seeks to upgrade road usability and safety.
They’ve helped developing countries to develop safer laws on the road including better signage and road quality. The responsibility doesn’t end with the quality of roads, however; it’s imperative that drivers prepare themselves to drive in a foreign country.
Before you book your rental car, make sure that you do your research. Here are five tips for preparing for driving abroad.
1. Learn the Laws of the Land
Check out the foreign country’s to learn the local laws. You will be able to find this information online or from the foreign embassy or often from the car rental company from which you book your car. Often countries will have specific laws about particular roads.
You need to look into the different licenses required for divided highways in various countries. Also, look into the less formal rules of the road. For example, in some countries, you need to honk your horn as you’re coming around the corner and flash your lights when you want to pass.
You’ll also want to learn the meanings of general traffic signs in the area. You’d hate to mistake a stop sign for a yield sign, for example.
2. Get Insured
Just because you are insured in the United States doesn’t mean that you will be insured in a foreign country.
Look into temporary car insurance offers in the country you’ll be visiting or find travel insurance that will cover your car rental.
Insurance companies will often offer short-term policies. If you are planning to go back and forth between your home country and the foreign country, you can get a split policy that will cover you in both places.
Sometimes your car rental company will also offer car insurance, but it is often at a higher rate than a temporary policy you could get with your own insurance company.
3. Get a license
Your home country’s driver’s license may not be recognized in the foreign country you are visiting. To make sure you’re covered, look into getting an International Driving Permit (IDP).
It’s authorized by the UN to allow drivers to drive in foreign countries without doing extra tests of applications.
The IDP is translated into several languages in order to make it immediately accessible to authorities.
4. Keep Your Eyes on the Road
It may sound obvious, but a couple travelling in New Zealand was unused to the road conditions and that combined with their sightseeing ended up in a tragic car accident.
You’ll be in a stimulating environment and you’ll be tempted to check out the surroundings instead of keeping your eyes on the road.
Especially if you’re travelling in a developing country, roads may not be as developed. Another good reason to keep your eyes on the road is to keep an eye out for rugged roads lacking signage.
“The road-safety problem worldwide for travellers and locals constitutes a growing public health crisis,” according to Tony Bliss, lead road safety specialist for the World Bank.
He says it’s “a far greater problem than many more widely acknowledged diseases.”
Renting a car for your foreign trip allows you to see places that are inaccessible by public transportation. It’s also a great way to remain flexible to various itineraries.
Just make sure that you do your homework on the driving laws in the country you’re visiting. You don’t want to fall prey to one of the most dangerous travelling activities out there: driving.