Traveling is always exciting. Seeing the sights and sounds of new places are always welcome. Public transportation is less exciting, however. Depending on where you are visiting, public transportation may be pleasant at best, or inconvenient and dangerous at worst.
This is why some tourists may opt to drive themselves around when vacationing. Driving in unfamiliar cities, however, brings its own set of challenges. With busy streets, unfamiliar signs, and local driving customs, it’s easy to get into an accident if you are not careful.
How can you protect yourself as a tourist from car accidents? This article will help you.
The Reality of Driving: Where Do Car Accidents Usually Happen?
Many travelers assume familiar places are safer for driving than new destinations. However, statistics show the opposite is true. Dolphin Technologies analyzed over 3 million car trips and found that 25% of all accidents occurred within the first three minutes of driving.
Furthermore, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports around 52% of all U.S. car accidents happen within five miles of home.
Driving in familiar areas leads to complacency. With routine comes mindlessness. People drive on autopilot near home, talking on cell phones, adjusting music, eating, and engaging in other risky distractions. Familiarity breeds carelessness.
Heightened Risks Near Home
Major causes of accidents close to home include distraction from cell phones, grooming, and technology; rushing while running errands; stress after a long day at work or school; and alcohol and drug impairment of tired drivers at night. Speeding, ignoring traffic signs, and blowing through yellow lights also contribute to the high accident rates near home.
Take Proactive Safety Measures
Don’t let these alarming statistics make you complacent about driving in popular tourist spots. Although most accidents happen near the home, one should not become overconfident when driving in new places. With proper planning and preventive measures, you can explore new destinations safely. Expect the unexpected when driving in unfamiliar areas. If you do however find yourself in an accident, make sure to contact trustworthy car accident legal experts as soon as possible.
Essential Safety Tips for Tourists
It is exciting to explore a new city. However, when vacationing you should still be vigilant of any dangers. Follow these road safety tips when driving in popular travel hot spots:
- Take Note of Speed Limits: Speeding is a primary cause of serious accidents. Be extra cautious about adhering to speed limits when navigating unfamiliar roads. Don’t rely solely on GPS for speed limit information, as it can be inaccurate. Maintain a speed below the posted limit, especially in busy urban areas.
- Study Local Traffic Laws: Be aware of special traffic signs, pedestrian rules, and intersections unique to the area. For instance, European cities have roundabouts instead of 4-way stops. Knowing local traffic laws helps avoid confusion and violations.
- Plan your Route: Conduct thorough pre-trip research about your destination. Consult maps and traffic apps to determine the best routes. Take note of potential trouble spots like construction zones, school zones, or areas prone to heavy traffic congestion.
- Choose a Suitable Rental Car: Opt for a rental car size suited to the city. Large SUVs are difficult to maneuver on narrow streets. Compact or midsize cars are ideal for urban settings. Similarly, if you are planning an offroad trip, you should rent out the right-sized ORV. Ask the rental company for recommendations based on your destination.
- Practice Defensive Driving: Avoid risky maneuvers like speeding, tailgating, improper lane changes, and distracted driving. Even minor errors can lead to accidents in unfamiliar places. Drive cautiously, keep a safe distance from other cars, and stay alert.
Keep these tips on your head when driving. Despite your best efforts, you may make a wrong turn or miss a sign. Stay calm, safely pull over, and reconsider your route. Don’t make rash decisions that could lead to accidents. If needed, ask locals for directions. Don’t let mistakes ruin your whole trip.
And Now The Weather
Adverse weather conditions can significantly increase the risk of car accidents. Climates that you are not used to can make driving more difficult. For example, if you are used to temperate climates, driving during snow may pose a problem. Here’s why you should be extra cautious in such weather:
- Slippery Roads: Rain and snow can make the road surface slippery. When the road is slippery, it takes longer for your vehicle to stop, increasing the risk of skidding or losing control.
- Reduced Visibility: Fog, heavy rain, or snowfall can severely limit your visibility. This means you may not see other vehicles, obstacles, or road signs until you’re very close to them.
- Hydroplaning: During heavy rain, water can accumulate on the road’s surface, causing your tires to lose contact with the road. This can result in hydroplaning, where your vehicle slides uncontrollably on a thin layer of water.
- Icy Conditions: In cold climates, snow and rain can freeze, leading to icy roads. Driving on ice is extremely hazardous, as your vehicle may skid or spin out of control.
- Reduced Traction: Adverse weather can reduce your tire’s grip on the road. This can affect your ability to steer and brake effectively.
Take note of the common weather conditions in the area you are visiting. Also consider the season of your visit.
If you are involved in an accident:
- Move your car to a safe spot out of traffic, if possible. Turn on hazard lights.
- Call emergency services immediately if anyone is injured.
- Document the incident by taking photos of vehicle damage, injuries, and the accident scene.
- Exchange insurance and contact details with the other drivers involved.
- Note the names and badge numbers of any responding police officers.
- Report the accident to your car rental agency.
- Consult with a local personal injury lawyer regarding your legal rights and options for compensation. An attorney familiar with the area’s laws can be invaluable after an accident in an unfamiliar place.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why are familiar places safer for driving?
Familiar areas are not necessarily safer. Rather they feel safer because drivers know the roads, traffic patterns, speed limits, and other rules. However, statistics show most accidents occur close to home due to overconfidence. In both cases, awareness and vigilance are needed whether in familiar surroundings or foreign locations.
2. How reliable are GPS systems for speed limit info?
GPS speed data is not always accurate. Speed limits can change due to construction, school zones, or local ordinances. Always double-check speed signs rather than relying solely on GPS.
3. What are some unique traffic rules in tourist cities?
Popular tourist spots may have roundabouts, pedestrian zones, turning restrictions, and strict speed enforcement. Some countries also have different sided traffic, which may be disorientating. Research any special regulations before driving in a new area.
It’s normal to feel anxious driving in a new place. But you can enjoy your destination safely with proper preparation. Observe speed limits, choose a suitable rental car, know the local traffic laws, and drive defensively. Exercise common sense, focus on the road, and don’t panic if you make a mistake. By taking preventive measures, you can have a stress-free and accident-free trip.