Why Doesn't Road Safety Come With Us on Holiday?

November 11, 2016


Road Safety


Sydney Parker

Zipping down the streets of a foreign land on a moped with wind in your hair, wine on your breath, and a song in your heart - we’ve all had this holiday day dream at one point or another.  But what about the part when you lose control on a hard corner and fly off a cliff? Or when you crash into a small child crossing the street? We might consider the scary consequences of our reckless actions in daily life, but when travelling, we more quickly forget our own mortality. 

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en-gb"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/tbthursday?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#tbthursday</a> &quot;trusting&quot; Jamie not to kill me as she learns to ride a moped in Bali <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/wanderlust?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#wanderlust</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/travel?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#travel</a> <a href="http://t.co/SRQWw5Xvo0">pic.twitter.com/SRQWw5Xvo0</a></p>&mdash; 30beforethirty (@kewheeler27) <a href="https://twitter.com/kewheeler27/status/631919460618604544?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">13 August 2015</a></blockquote>

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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en-gb"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Today I crashed a moped and sent me &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/TheSimonHenry?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TheSimonHenry</a> flying into a ditch. There is <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoPro?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoPro</a> footage... Oops <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Bali?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Bali</a></p>&mdash; Helen Wright (@Helenwrites) <a href="https://twitter.com/Helenwrites/status/708687392098508800?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">12 March 2016</a></blockquote>

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With winter kicking in, you may be thinking about jetting off to Bali or Southeast Asia on holiday. But if you decide to see the sights by moped, be forewarned - moped accidents are extremely common and often fatal. 

Worldwide, injuries are the leading cause of preventable death in travelers aged 15-29 years, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Estimates have reported that 18%–24% of deaths among travelers in foreign countries are caused by injuries. Infectious diseases accounted for only 2% of deaths to travelers abroad.

Contributing to the injury toll while traveling are, “exposure to unfamiliar and perhaps risky environments, differences in language and communications, less stringent product safety and vehicle standards, unfamiliar rules and regulations, a carefree holiday spirit leading to more risk-taking behavior, and over reliance on travel and tour operators to protect one’s safety and security,” reports the CDC. 

One of the world’s most-overlooked health crisis is the sharply rising death toll that has followed the developing world’s motorcycle boom. According to the Pulitzer Center, two- and three-wheeled vehicles account for about a third of all highway deaths across Asia, with the highest numbers in Southeast Asia. In Cambodia, the Pulitzer center reports, motorcycle crashes represent 67 percent of all road deaths; in Thailand and Laos it has reached a staggering 74 percent. 

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en-gb"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">I fell off a moped and had to get a drip in my arm :( at least me and the doctor got this amazing selfie. 😂 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/travel?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#travel</a> <a href="https://t.co/9Aoi67VX9P">pic.twitter.com/9Aoi67VX9P</a></p>&mdash; Harry Newell (@HarryNewell1) <a href="https://twitter.com/HarryNewell1/status/722445015306219520?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">19 April 2016</a></blockquote>

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Many of these crashes would be less deadly if wearing a helmet was as hip as a pink powerboat race with Stefan. But alas, we are vain and don’t to muss our tresses with a gaudy old helmet. The authorities certainly aren’t going to make you. Laws requiring drivers and passengers to wear helmets in developing countries are lightly enforced.

In Cambodia, the fine for not wearing a helmet ranges from less than a dollar to $4. One survey showed that only 24 percent of drivers wore helmets during daylight hours, with that figure sinking down to 5 percent after dark, reports the Pulitzer Center. 

In a study conducted from 2001 to 2005, the CDC found that mopeds were part of a group of recreational vehicles that comprised over 20% of traumatic brain injury Emergency Department visits. 

Given the statistical danger, why are we so quick to throw caution to the wind on holiday? Psychotherapist Diane Barth suggests that we often have high expectations for maximising enjoyment on our holidays, which can mean that we might go overboard in our efforts to have fun and relax. This paradox can lead to doing things we’re too tired or out of shape to do and not paying attention to what we are doing. 

Many people are so excited to be out of their element, that they may try to do everything the first day. Exhausted from flying, potentially full of greasy foods and alcohol, going full throttle the first day is a recipe for disaster. Barth suggests taking it easy the first day while your system adjusts even if your pumping adrenaline says you’re ready for adventure. 

Perhaps you take to your moped rested, nourished and sober. Great! But there’s nothing stopping the hundreds of other people racing around intoxicated with no experience driving a moped or a speeding car from destroying your life in an instant. 

According to travel guide website TrackPlanet, you can increase your likelihood of survival by reading up on the rules of the road beforehand. In Vietnam for instance, trucks and tourist buses dominate the center of the road, normal trucks and cars are in the middle and motorcyclists are on the shoulder.

“Passing is the norm in Vietnam and even the semi-trailers will swing into the opposite lane to pass someone. Stay alert. Typically you drive your bike until you approach another driver from the rear, then honk twice as a friendly signal and pass them on the left side,” writes TrackPlanet

If you’re dead set on spending your holiday on a motorbike, do yourself a favor and take a few lessons back home before you rent one in an unfamiliar land. Travel blog That Backpacker recommends at least getting a hang of driving around sharp curves and learning how to kick the bike away should you happen to fall off. 

“When in Rome” you may envision yourself as someone different from your normal life, a free spirit, reckless and thrill seeking. But that feeling fades fast when you end up in an ambulance. Wear a helmet and stay safe this summer!

Sydney Parker

Writer for The Atlantic, The Guardian, Racked, Curbed Seattle, Buzzfeed and more. Sydney hopes to engage the community in seeking new experiences, celebrating difference, and finding humour in humanity.