Saturday, June 21, 2014

Tip of the Day: Don't Be in a Hurry to Drive a Motor Vehicle in a Foreign Country

As a general rule, foreign travelers should not rent cars abroad unless they are very comfortable with driving patterns and speak the local language. 

If you DO plan to drive abroad, please contact your national-level automobile association and make allowances for timing to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP):

Foreigners who rent cars and are NOT familiar with the environment and language face enormous risks for the following reasons:

1. First of all, if you have no special legal status in a foreign country, for example being an accredited diplomat for a foreign government, the bottom-line is that you're very vulnerable to local law;

2. If you are involved in a serious automobile accident and are at fault, which is very often the case, expect to be arrested, detained, charged, prosecuted, adjudicated and very likely convicted;

3. If you are responsible for another person losing their life or becoming seriously injured and/or incapacitated for months or years, under local law, you may also be subject to legal restitution for their medical expenses and maintenance, none of which is a good thing;

4. Once the prosecutor is done with you, you may also be subject to being sued in civil court for those you've injured and/or incapacitated;

5. Particularly where the serious injury and/or death of persons killed on foreign roadways occur, those at fault are typically either incarcerated or deported, neither of which is a positive result;

6. In developing nations where armed carjacking is a frequent occurrence, I generally discourage foreign drivers from renting vehicles, due to the life-threatening risks involved;

7. If you are traveling to a left-hand-drive (LHR) or right-hand-drive (RHD) nation and are unfamiliar with driving on one side of the road or the other, I strongly discourage you from driving a vehicle due to the considerable risk of being involved in a serious or fatal automobile accident:

8. Police corruption can be a huge problem in both developed and developing countries so do yourself a big favor before you leave home. Go to the following link to determine what level of transparency [corruption] your destination countries are experiencing:


On the basis of deaths per distance driven, the most dangerous nations for foreign motorist fatalities include Egypt, Kenya, Greece, South Korea, Turkey, Morocco, Yemen, Austria, South Africa, Bulgaria, Portugal, Hungary, and Macedonia. In these countries, deaths per million miles driven range from 15 to 29; the US rate is 1.8.

Before driving in any foreign country, consider the following:

a. Ensure that you know the traffic regulations before you drive a vehicle in a foreign country. In many countries, you cannot turn on a red light, pass on the right, enter a tunnel without lights on, or drive without engaging a seat belt. In Mexico City, you cannot drive unless your license plate number is odd or even, depending upon which day one of the two can enter the city center;

b. Any vehicle you drive, be it a rental or owned, ensure that you have not only third-party liability coverage, but that the vehicle has full, comprehensive coverage, which means any damage caused by you or others will repair all damages of any vehicle involved in a collision;

c. Check the below list of countries and US states that mandate the use of hands-free mobile devices and texting prohibitions while operating a motor vehicle:

NEVER get into any vehicle you intend to drive in a foreign country until you have determined that it is fully insured and that any damage you cause to any vehicle while driving you will not be responsible for.

Please KNOW that any auto insurance issued in your home country CANNOT be used internationally. 

If you are traveling to any country where hands-free devices are authorized, please purchase the necessary equipment before departure.

One important fact you must know if you decided to drive abroad is:

What action by local law are you required to do as a motorist if you are involved in a collision? If you don't know, please DON'T drive.

NOTE that the fines abroad for failure to use a hands-free device can be costly! In Italy, the fine is $124, Ireland $380, Norway $600 and Poland $1,000.

Understand and adhere to all traffic regulations while traveling abroad. 

In some countries driving while intoxicated can result in incarceration. See the below link which provides the BAC limits for the majority of countries: