The World Health Organization reports that injuries are the leading cause of preventable deaths among travelers. Each year, some Americans who travel internationally suffer from serious and even fatal injury. Car accidents are the most common cause of injury- related fatalities among US travelers, followed by homicide and drowning. Other common causes of injury to traveling Americans include natural disasters, civil unrest, terrorism, hate crimes against US nationals, slip and fall accidents, burn injuries, unintentional poisoning, drug or medication overdose, and suicide. Unfortunately, for US nationals traveling outside the country, ER rooms and emergency services vary widely and in some cases adequate care is simply not available, leading to complications.
Winter is a popular time to travel overseas. Many travel agents in Florida and other states offer January and February deals and many schools offer spring breaks, freeing families to travel. However, traveling overseas, especially to low-income countries, should be undertaken only with some precautions in mind. If you are planning a trip, make sure that you take these precautions into consideration:
1) Take care to avoid car accidents, the leading cause of fatal injuries among US citizens traveling abroad. Poor road conditions and unfamiliar terrain and rules can all contribute to car crashes. To prevent accidents, consider renting larger vehicles when traveling, as these offer additional protection in an accident. Always wear seatbelts in cars and helmets when on motorcycles, motorbikes, and bicycles. Take extra caution with taxis – choose only marked taxis with safety belts and tell the driver that you will provide an additional tip for driving in a manner you consider “safe.” Exercise extra caution when walking around, especially when crossing streets. Avoid excessive alcohol and avoid getting on buses that are overcrowded. If a vehicle looks unsafe, select another mode of transport.
2) Only swim in designated areas such as hotel pools and lakes clearly marked as safe for swimming. Never swim alone or while under the influence of alcohol. Measure the depth of the water before attempting a dive.
3) When staying at a hotel, determine the nearest fire exists to your room and ask about fire extinguishers in your room. In low-income countries, especially, building codes tend to be lax, which can lead to serious injury in the event of a fire. Consider booking a room on the first few floors of a hotel, so that you can escape in the event of a fire.
4) When traveling by plane, fly with recognizable, larger airline companies. Avoid unscheduled flights, small aircraft, night flights, and flights during bad weather.
5) Consider buying extra insurance – such as health and even evacuation insurance if you will be in a remote location without access to good medical care. If you are traveling to an area that requires this sort of extra precaution, think twice before taking part in any adventure activities such as rock climbing or skydiving. If the equipment is not safe and you are injured, you could face a long wait for adequate medical attention.