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    January 2020

    Managing Risks of Operating Vehicles Abroad

    hands on steering wheel of vehicle

    Vehicle crashes are the top killer of Americans traveling abroad, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State Department. But institutions can better manage the risk by taking certain practices into their international pre-departure risk assessments.

    While bus crashes abroad often garner significant media attention, United Educators' (UE's) most recent analysis of higher education study abroad-related claims showed just as many crashes involved a small van or car. More importantly, many of those vehicles were operated by someone from the institution.

    Consider the following examples from a UE claims study:

    • The professor in charge of a university anthropology program studying in Honduras rented a vehicle and gave students permission to drive. A student driver lost control, and the vehicle went down a hill. No injuries occurred, but the professor and students faced conduct hearings for violating the institution’s no rental car policy.

    • A student participating in an institution service trip to Jamaica was in an crash in a vehicle rented by the college and driven by a college employee. The student suffered a broken foot and pursued legal action against the institution.

    Some institutions allow students, faculty, and staff to operate vehicles in the institution’s name while abroad. UE urges members to ensure these drivers are qualified, prepared, and using the vehicle for business purposes. Take these actions:

    • Ensure drivers know and understand your institution’s travel policies and procedures. The University of Minnesota urges travelers to hire local drivers and explains university insurance coverage for rental vehicles.

    • Know licensing requirements. Most countries do not recognize U.S. driver’s licenses. Even if drivers obtain an International Driving Permit, to reduce risk they should become familiar with the vehicle, foreign laws, signs, traffic rules, and road conditions.

    • Review road safety information before departure. The Association for Safe International Road Travel creates road travel reports and other resources for study abroad programs. The State Department offers a road safety section in every country information page on its website.

    If your institution or study abroad provider encourages the use of public and private transportation vendors rather than allowing students, faculty, and staff to drive abroad in the institution’s name, take steps to ensure these options are properly vetted by checking available safety records or requesting an accident history.

    More From UE

    At Risk Abroad: Lessons From Higher Ed Claims

    Additional Resources

    Association for Safe International Road Travel

    State Department: Driving and Road Safety Abroad


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