Welcome to the July 2016 Travel Health Bulletin. In this edition we look at road travel accidents abroad and how important it is to remind clients of the risk and how to reduce this.
Environmental hazards – Road traffic accidents abroad
Most travellers will have a safe and enjoyable trip abroad and return home safe and well, however the reality is that accidents do happen and these can include road traffic accidents (RTAs). Although it may seem a difficult topic to discuss in a travel health consultation, and often a subject that many travellers wish to ignore, we need to remember that infectious diseases only account for 2% of deaths in travellers whilst road traffic accidents are the leading cause of injury and death in British Travellers abroad (WHO, 2013). It is an important part of the travel health specialist’s professional role to raise the awareness of risk and provide advice on reducing the risk of accidents and the importance of obtaining appropriate travel health insurance before travel.
Thailand, a popular destination for many travellers sees over 870,000 British visitors per year. In 2011 there were 68,582 road traffic incidents that resulted in 9,205 deaths involving both Thai residents and tourists. In contrast to this 1,901 people were killed in road accidents in the UK in 2011 (Gov.uk). This risk of an RTA is over 4 times higher in Thailand than in the UK.
India has some of the world most dangerous roads. According to a recent report by the BBC, fifteen people are killed every hour in road accidents in India. Ambulances are in short supply, are poorly equipped and can be very slow to arrive.
Our travellers need to be aware that many countries do not have the road safety laws that we have in the UK. Only 28 countries representing 7% of the world’s population have adequate laws that address all risk factors; speed, drink driving, use of helmets, seat-belts and child restraints. They also need to be aware that the following factors contribute to their risk of RTAs-
• Lack of familiarity with the roads
• Not used to driving on the opposite side of the road
• Lack of seat belt use and laws to wear a seatbelt
• Driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol
• Poorly maintained vehicles
• Poorly maintained road surfaces without hard shoulders and unprotected curves and cliffs
• Poor visibility on the roads at night due to inadequate lighting
• Stop signs and traffic lights often ignored by drivers.
• High volume and mix of traffic, involving cars, buses, taxis, rickshaws, large trucks, people and animals on the roads
Recommendations and advice to give in our travel health consultations
• Always wear a seatbelt in a moving vehicle
• Be alert when crossing roads particularly if not used the difference in direction of traffic
• Avoid travelling on the road at night
• Don’t ride motorcycles especially if not experienced
• If renting a moped, motorbike or bicycle helmets should always be worn
• Drink responsibly and do not drive any vehicle under the influence of alcohol
• Do not travel if you suspect the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol
• Before getting in a vehicle inspect it for bald tyres, seatbelts and working lights
• Use a reputable marked bus or taxi company with seatbelts - these can often be arranged through your hotel
• If you do intend to drive a car or moped /motorbike you should make sure that tyres are in good condition and that the breaks work. Learn road signs; understand driving customs and road conditions
• Do not travel on overcrowded, overweight, or top-heavy buses
PREPARE BEFORE TRAVEL
• Purchase appropriate travel health insurance that includes medical repatriation and covers you for the activities you intend to partake in
• Purchase a travel medical kit that includes sterile needles and syringes and always have this available in your day bag
• Check out the government’s foreign travel advice on road travel for the country you are visiting (Gov.uk)
• Have an emergency plan in place. Have details of the local nearest medical centre and embassy. Embassy details can be found on Gov.uk