According to U.S. Department of State data, 30% of U.S. citizen deaths overseas are caused by vehicle accidents. Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of nonnatural deaths among U.S. citizens living, working or traveling abroad, according to the CDC. While car accidents cannot be fully predicted or prevented, advance preparation can help avert unfortunate situations. 

If you are driving abroad for the first time, Global Rescue operations personnel have put together the following driving safety tips to help keep you and your passengers safe on the roads at home and abroad. 

Check if driving abroad with a U.S. license is possible.

Some countries require an International Driving Permit along with a valid U.S. drivers license. Check before you plan to drive in a foreign country. 

Know the rules of the road.

The driving laws — as well as the road conditions, signage and driving culture — vary in each country. If you rent a car, the rental agency can provide information on local laws. You can also request information from the embassy or tourism office. 

Provide friends or relatives with a rough itinerary prior to departure and keep them updated with any major changes.

Set-up a contact schedule with the same friends or relatives. Establish the length of interval between contacts and a preferred method of contact. What should your contact do in the event you do not check-in? Discuss these possibilities and agree to a plan of action. It will make everyone more comfortable with the trip.

Consider one or two alternative contact methods.

A few methods could include either a satellite phone or messenger. Carry a spare battery or solar charger for your communication devices.

Phone batteries can die and service may not be available in all areas.

Instead, carry a paper map and know where you are at all times. Research your itinerary and use your map to mark the locations of hospitals and service stations along and near your route. Identify known construction zones.

Make sure your vehicle is equipped with at least a minimal amount of safety equipment.

The following items can fit under the front seats of most vehicles.

  • Small first-aid kit
  • Multi-tool
  • Tire compressor, consider a small plug kit
  • Portable jump-start battery pack, most are the size of an old VHS tape
  • Rain gear
  • Flashlight or headlamp with spare batteries
  • Small towels and a little spray bottle of cleaning fluid (for windows, lights and mirrors)
  • Roll of toilet paper in a quart-size bag
  • Reflective vest, stay visible if you have to make an emergency stop off the road

Make it a habit to walk around your vehicle prior to entry.

Look for obvious defects such as low tires or oil leaks and ensure windows, lights and mirrors are free of grime. Make sure lights and signals are functional. Also, look for signs of tampering such as new fingerprints or smudge marks on the door handles, hood or trunk. Is there anything unusual?

Attempt to keep fuel tanks above half or at least above a quarter-full when fuel sources are reliable.

In more remote areas, consider carrying an external fuel-approved container. Plan routes accordingly for reliable fuel stops.

Skip the fancy first-aid kits.

Carry essentials including rolled gauze and an elastic wrap, plus two triangular bandages and a small roll of medical tape. With some creativity, these items and their packaging can stabilize a wide variety of injuries. Add some basic over-the-counter medications including anti-inflammatories, antihistamines and an antidiarrheal. Antibiotic and anti-itch ointments are useful as well.

Carry additional food and water per person

This is especially key for remote travel or in trips in very warm climates. Food items should be temperature stable and easily palatable. Consider a means of storing and treating additional water.

Pack a blanket or sleeping bag

Also pack warm clothing when traveling through cold/remote climates.

For longer trips or in older vehicles, carry additional fluids

This includes fluids such as oil, coolant and windshield cleaner. Add a small funnel. If knowledgeable and comfortable with them, add basic automotive tools including wrenches and sockets.

Whether you’re seeking advice or immediate medical or security assistance, Global Rescue operations centers are staffed 24/7/365 to assist our members. Click here to contact us about the benefits of membership.