Road accidents — not terrorism, plane crashes or crime — are the No. 1 killer of healthy Americans traveling abroad, a USA TODAY analysis of the past 7½ years of State Department data shows.An accompanying chart shows that between 2003 and June 2010, 56 Americans were killed in road accidents in Thailand.
About 1,820 Americans, almost a third of all Americans who died of non-natural causes while abroad, have been reported killed in road accidents in foreign countries from Jan. 1, 2003, through June 2010. On average, one American traveler dies on a foreign road every 36 hours.
Almost 40% of the deaths occurred in Mexico, the analysis shows. The second-highest number of road fatalities occurred in Thailand, where relatively few Americans visit. The Dominican Republic, a popular resort destination, ranked No. 3 in fatalities, followed by Germany and Spain.
During that period 16,240 Thais lost their lives on the kingdom's deadly roads. To put this figure in context, nearly half as many Thais lose their lives on the roads as Brazilians, even though Brazil's population is nearly three times larger. Turkey's population is slightly larger than Thailand's, but Turkey had only two-thirds as many traffic fatalities as Thailand. Accounting for the population, Thailand's roads are only marginally more deadly than Malaysia's, which is surprising as Malaysians are far more prosperous than Thais (on the same level as the Turks and Brazilians)*. As more affluent countries tend to have safer roads, Malaysia's roads are far more dangerous than should be expected.
If Thais want to think of their roads as safe, they have to compare their country to Iran. Iran has about the same population and GDP per capita as Thailand, but its roads are two-thirds more deadly.
* GDP per capita of Turkey, Brazil and Malaysia is twice that of Thailand.