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Road Rules for Safe Summer Travel

by Debra Bokur

Jun 15, 2018

© Blanscape | Dreamstime.com

Travel Tips

It’s nearly summer, the time of year when countless travelers happily head out to explore the back roads, highways and byways of the world. While road trips should be adventures filled with pleasant memories, the sad and tragic truth is, every year, 1.24 million people die, and an additional 50 million people are injured on roads both at home and abroad.

Educator Rochelle Sobel, founder and director of the non-profit Association for Safe International Road Travel, knows firsthand about road trips that go catastrophically wrong. Since her son Aron lost his life in a preventable bus crash in Turkey in 1995, Sobel sought to bring world awareness to the issues of road safety, and has been instrumental in forming global partnerships that develop and deploy programs to promote safer roads and road travel.

“Being prepared is key,” says Sobel. “Never underestimate the risks and challenges that come with road travel. For instance, travelers need to familiarize themselves with the road culture that exists in the place where they’ll be driving. Who really has the right of way? Are the road surfaces in good condition, and are the road signs in English? Do people typically walk out in to traffic? Educating yourself on all of these factors should be part of the travel planning process.”

As an example, despite how commonplace traffic circles — or roundabouts — are in other countries, most U.S. drivers are unfamiliar with how to negotiate them. When the driving is on the left-hand side of the road rather than the more familiar right, confusion can take over, increasing the risk of a traffic crash.

family road trip

© Sarayuth Punnasuriyaporn | Dreamstime.com

Below, Sobel shares important tips for planning your own road trip, with an emphasis on a safe return home. Additionally, ASIRT’s website and Facebook page offer proven guidelines and advice that help travelers to help keep safe on the world’s roads. You can even order detailed, individual road travel reports with practical advice on road conditions, driving culture and traffic rules for countries around the globe.

“In some countries,” reminds Sobel, “cars may not have seat belts or other safety features. ASIRT’s road travel reports are designed to educate you about these details, along with driving culture, state of the roads and emergency contacts — all elements that are essential components to safe road travel.”

Plan ahead. Service your vehicle in advance. Even if you’re renting a vehicle, make sure the tires, horn and wipers are functional. Not all rental agencies in other countries keep the vehicles in roadworthy condition, and it’s up to you to make certain safety features are in working order — and that you’re familiar with the vehicle before setting off. It’s never a good idea to try to figure out how the windshield wipers work in a sudden downpour on a foreign highway.

“Give yourself plenty of extra time on unfamiliar roads,” advises Sobel. “Check weather and road conditions before setting off, and remember that construction zones, traffic jams, or other incidents can add delays.”

Practice safety. Everyone needs to be properly buckled. If traveling with children, educate yourself on child safety seats and restraints. Children age 12 and under should always ride in the back seat of vehicles.

Pay attention. Eliminate distractions ahead of time. Be sure important items such as directions, maps and sunglasses are within easy reach. Always pull over to a safe place to check GPS or to use your cell phone. Be alert to unexpected pedestrians and animals on the road. In many countries, loose animals on roadways are common.

Clear your head. Alcohol and certain drugs, both illegal and legal, severely impair driving skills. “Remember that you are already impaired as a tourist because you aren’t aware of the local risks,” says Sobel. “These may include motorbikes weaving in traffic, traffic signs in a language you don’t understand, or a lack of road shoulders or guardrails.”

Keep a safe distance. Maintain a following distance of at least two seconds. Add an additional second for each adverse driving condition, such as bad weather or low visibility.

Watch for signs of fatigue. If you start feeling tired, let someone else drive. If you are driving alone, pull into a rest stop or another safe location and take a short nap or walk around for a few minutes. Stop as often as necessary. Eat light on long trips. Large, heavy meals can make you drowsy. Better yet, bring a friend. It’s well recognized that when driving alone, especially when sleep-deprived and at night, your chances of a crash are dramatically increased.

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