The major cause of serious disability or loss of life in foreign
countries is not infectious disease; it is trauma, usually the result
of motor vehicle accidents. Such accidents may result from many
factors, including inadequate roadways, hazardous conditions, poor
maintenance of vehicles, inexperienced drivers, inattention to pedestrians
and cyclists, and the use of alcohol or drugs. Many of these factors
can be eliminated or minimized by preventive measures.
Defensive driving is an important measure. Insist on vehicles
with safety belts, and consider the potential advantages of airbags
and anti-lock brakes. Avoid non-essential night driving, alcohol,
and riding with persons who are under the influence of alcohol or
drugs. Use a helmet for bicycle or motorcycle travel.
Fires are also a major cause of injury and death in foreign countries.
Never smoke in bed. Look for hotels with smoke detectors and sprinkler
systems. Have a plan for escape in case of fire, and remember to
escape a fire by crawling low under smoke. Also be aware that improperly
vented heating devices may cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
Other potential risks include drowning and drug reactions. Do
not buy over-the-counter medications in foreign countries unless
you are familiar with the product.
Travelers should also be aware of the potential for violence-related
injuries. Risk for assault or terrorist attack varies from country
to country; heed advice from residents and tour guides about areas
to be avoided, going out at night, and going out alone. Government
authorities do not recommend fighting attackers and, if you are
confronted, they advise giving up your valuables.