The Global Learning Office strongly advises against owning, renting, and operating a vehicle while abroad.
Road accidents are the number one cause of fatality for healthy Americans abroad and, therefore, we strongly advise that you maintain awareness and learn about road and traffic safety in the countries where you plan to live and/or visit as a pedestrian and as a potential passenger in a vehicle. We discourage driving outside of the United States for the following reasons:
- Road regulations and laws are unfamiliar. While in some countries driving laws may appear to be similar, as foreign drivers we are still not knowledgeable of the details and nuances of the laws that local drivers are following. In other countries, it may be obvious that driving laws are different and, therefore, it increases the risk factors for road accidents.
- Traffic and road culture are unfamiliar. Local drivers understand the driving habits and environment of the roads they regularly drive on, which vary from country to country. Certain cultural factors influence how drivers behave on the road. This includes risk tolerance, driving attitudes, and perceived control of a vehicle. The most common example of road culture is how drivers adhere to red lights or speed limits. Despite having laws in place, the road culture may tolerate non-compliance. Unfamiliarity with the road culture increases the risk of a road accident.
- Vehicle conditions may not meet safety standards or may meet local safety standards which in some cases may not be as rigorous as we are used to in the United States. Differences such as availability of functioning seat belts, adequate mirrors, good tire condition, correctly adjusted headlights, and functioning emergency brakes increase the risk of road accidents.
- Some places may have inadequate emergency care. Rural areas and developing countries may not have the resources to respond quickly to a road crash. Post-accident hospital care is not always consistent across a country and in non-English speaking countries language can be a barrier to receiving proper care.