Driving isn’t something you think much about. Everything from starting your vehicle and putting it in reverse to accelerating, braking, and following traffic rules comes to you without any conscious effort. But the moment you’re taken out of your comfort zone and placed on an unfamiliar road in an unfamiliar country, this all changes. Suddenly driving requires a lot more mental effort and strain. Staying safe requires you to plan ahead.
5 Tips for Staying Safe and Sound
Whether it’s a family vacation just across the northern border in Canada, or an extended business trip in Europe, driving abroad comes with its fair share of challenges. A conscientious approach will keep you safe, healthy, and legal. Here are some suggestions:
- Read Up on the Laws
“Just because you are from a different country does not mean you are exempt from following their rules. Reading up on the country’s laws, customs, and general ways of life before you leave will help you prevent any problems from occurring,” InMyArea.com notes.
For those who will be driving within the country, road rules are among the most important laws for travelers to study up on. You want to be sure that you understand the basics – like what side of the road to drive on and rules regarding stoplights and speed limits – but you also need to be aware of the more intricate rules. For example, are you allowed to use your phone while driving? Are seatbelts a requirement for everyone – including passengers?
Playing dumb isn’t a strategy that local law enforcement will look kindly upon. They expect you to know the rules and you’ll be punished like anyone else if you fail to follow the local laws and regulations.
- Choose the Right Vehicle
If you’ll be renting a vehicle, make sure you choose the right type. Instead of going with a flashy sports car or large vehicle that’s tough to maneuver, opt for a safe, compact car that’s easier to handle. It’s also best to choose an automatic transmission, which will eliminate the need for changing gears and lower the risk of stalling. Instead of thinking about the vehicle, you can focus on the road in front of you.
- Carry the Right Documentation
Different countries have different rules regarding the exact documentation that you have to have on you when driving. Some only need your American driver’s license and a form from the car rental company with the vehicle’s registration information. Other counties will require your passport, a temporary local license, insurance, registration, etc. Read up on these rules before you leave for your trip so that you aren’t unprepared.
- Use Your GPS
Whether you’re driving five minutes from your hotel to a business conference center, or you’re embarking on a multi-hour trip from one city to the next, be sure to plug the destination into your hands-free GPS and follow the prompts. When you don’t have to worry about navigating, you can direct all of your energy and focus toward the road.
- Relax and Take it Easy
Driving abroad is stressful. And when you’re high strung, all it takes is one little issue to throw you off your game and make you angry, frustrated, or emotional. Being aware of this tendency will help you confront potentially stressful situations with greater poise.
“Drivers in the country you are in may be a bit aggressive, so focus on what you are doing and don’t let them distract you. Most importantly, don’t allow them to get you riled up to the point that your focus moves from the road to their actions,” The Remote Life explains. “If you find yourself getting frustrated with what is going on around you, move over into the slow lane and calm down. If you feel distracted, find a safe place to pull over.”
Always Plan Ahead
Safety is the number one concern when you’re on the road. Whether you’re in your hometown or halfway around the world in a country that you’ve never seen before, it’s important that you take proactive steps to reduce your risk of breaking laws and/or being injured. Hopefully this article has given you an idea of a few proactive steps you can take.