More than 3000 people die on the world's roads every day. Tens of millions of people are injured or disabled every year. Approximately 90 per cent of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
The World Health Organization also reports that road-crash casualties will increase by 67 per cent from now until 2020 as more cars and trucks compete for road space with pedestrians and bicyclists.
Young adults are particularly vulnerable. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death among young people between 10 and 24 years. Each year nearly 400,000 people under 25 die on the world’s roads – on average more than 1000 a day. Most of these deaths occur among vulnerable road users – pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and those using public transport.
The number of Australians involved in traffic accidents overseas is likely to increase, as more Australians travel overseas. If you are not covered by travel insurance, the cost of medical treatment as a result of traffic accidents can result in long-term financial burden for you and your family.
Motorcycle accidents involving Australians are very common in
Dangerous drivers in unsafe vehicles and ill-designed and poorly maintained roads make a lethal cocktail. Inadequate medical and emergency services, ineffective law enforcement and an often startling array of human and motorised traffic moving at different speeds add to the risks. In some countries, drivers flash their lights to indicate you should yield to them; in others, they don’t use them at all at night under the (mistaken) belief that turning them on will drain their batteries. Road travel, particularly at night and outside major cities, in countries with poor safety records and/or mountainous terrain can be very dangerous.
Australians should learn about their travel destination's road conditions and “traffic culture” in all travel destinations. It is important to be aware of local laws and security conditions when driving overseas. Driving under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants can have severe criminal penalties in many countries.
Ask about your tour group's safety record and follow safety precautions such as buckling up and not drinking and driving. The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators, including for adventure activities, are not always met. Sufficient safety equipment may not be provided and recommended maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be observed.
Avoid riding with drivers who seem to be under the influence of alcohol or medication, or appear over-tired, irrational or distracted. If you’re renting a car, before you start driving, make sure it’s equipped with appropriate safety features, and check the tyres, headlights, seatbelts and wipers before you leave the lot. If you’re using commercial transportation, avoid taxis without seatbelts and overweight or top-heavy buses, and speak up any time you feel you’re at risk.
Many countries require Australians to have an International Drivers Permit (IDP), in addition to a valid Australian driving licence, to legally drive a car in that country. An IDP is a widely recognised document that can be issued by associated members of the Australian Automobile Association (AAA), including the NRMA. Before driving overseas, Australians should contact the appropriate foreign mission in
Always insure yourself to drive a vehicle overseas and carry the insurance papers with you. If driving a friend’s car overseas, check before you drive that you are appropriately covered by their insurance to drive their car.
Pedestrians should look carefully in all directions before crossing the road. Remember that in many countries traffic travels in the opposite direction to that which Australians are used to. You should not take it for granted that drivers will stop at zebra crossings. When walking along the roadside, it is recommended you face the oncoming traffic so that you can better see approaching vehicles.
For more detailed information, the Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT) offers regularly updated Road Reports for approximately 150 countries. Available via e-mail or download (fees may apply), each report covers general road conditions, local driving style, and the realities of dealing with the police, public transportation and emergency situations. Other useful features include capsule summaries of especially dangerous roads and phonetic translations for use in unsafe or emergency situations.
While every care has been taken in preparing this travel information for travellers, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees including any member of