Terrorism, infectious disease, crime and plane accidents are typical worries when students travel abroad. But road crashes are the biggest threat by far.
Safety specialists recommend that students and parents conduct research before any trip and that students practice good safety habits while abroad.
Learn about the local road culture. The United States Department of State (with a special section for students) and the Association for Safe International Road Travel provide country-specific safety information, including detailed road conditions, dangerous highways to avoid and the safest mode of transportation.
A 2015 global report by the World Health Organization on road-traffic safety has country-by-country profiles and an interactive map that are worth consulting before you travel and include data on traffic deaths per 100,000 population.
Register your travel plans with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Plan (STEP), a free State Department service, so the local United States Embassy can contact you in an emergency.
Take precautions. Use seatbelts, wear helmets on bicycles and use crosswalks when walking. Take buses only from established companies. Be aware that local, less expensive forms of transportation often have poor safety records.
Ride in the back seat of taxis and in the middle row or seat in minivans. If a driver is not acting responsibly, speak up. If the situation does not improve, get out as soon as possible.
Avoid unnecessary risks. Do not travel at night, particularly in countries with poor safety records and road conditions, inadequate signs and lighting, and difficult, mountainous terrain.
Avoid taxis in poor condition, motorcycles and motorcycle taxis, and crowded top-heavy buses and minivans. Do not text while walking or cross streets while wearing headphones.
Get travel insurance. Check whether your medical policy is valid overseas and strongly consider buying supplemental insurance with specific overseas coverage, including emergency medical air evacuation and 24-hour assistance.
Insurance cannot prevent incidents, but it can streamline access to quality medical care if something goes wrong. The State Department website lists providers.
“People buy the cheapest policy, and then they don’t read it,’’ said Bruce McIndoe, chief executive of iJET International, a travel risk management company. “It’s a big problem,” he said, “as at the end of the day, stuff happens.”
He recommends InsureMyTrip.com to compare policies.