Driving can offer independence and freedom to explore your surroundings, which is why so many people opt to get their driver’s license and begin to drive. However, driving comes with inherent risk, since it involves high speed, infrastructure, technology, and human error. Yet, some countries are more conducive to safe driving than others and have significantly fewer fatal deaths on a yearly basis. Top driving countries include most of Europe and some other random places, like Japan and New Zealand. Surprisingly, the US is not among the top tier of safest countries to drive and has ten deaths per one hundred thousand each year. However, its leaps and bounds safer than the countries listed below, according to the World Health Organization’s 2017 data…

6.    Iraq

Iraq is the least dangerous place to drive on this list however it still ranks 69th place among the most deadly driving countries in the world. There are about 22 deaths per one hundred thousand each year. People say that driving there is just total chaos and that no one sticks to their lane, the shoulder is used as a passing lane, and that no one signals. They say that if you must slow down you need to use your four-way blinkers, since everyone is moving so fast. Apparently, the roads aren’t well marked, the lanes will simply end without any given notice, and the speed bumps are the size of rolling hills. Goats rampantly walk around the streets and sometimes parties breakout and block roads. Perhaps, this is an exaggeration however it’s undeniable that driving around Iraq requires great motor skills, attention span, and is not for the faint of heart, since anything could happen at any given moment.

5.    Nigeria

Nigeria’s driving conditions tend to be the butt of many jokes yet they are also very dangerous. Just to give a quick idea, trucks have signs, telling drivers to honk the horn before passing by. However, drivers don’t need such motivation to be obnoxious on the road and apparently they shout out at other drivers often. There’s testimony of a Nigerian driving instructor who said that people drive so fast, as if they think that the faster they go, the more gas they will save. Some people also joke that the Nigerian city of Lagos is the real F1 grand prix. Yet, such fast driving in such a busy country is remarkably dangerous because of kids playing in or near the streets, goats darting around, and pedestrian’s jay walking.

There are also cab drivers, called Danfo drivers, who are known for being the most obnoxious on the road. They often drive drunk and pack their vans full, even squeezing five people into 3-person benches. They blast music and yell and you may never receive change from them. Of course, they’re the fastest drivers on the road and it’s not uncommon for them to stop absolutely anywhere to pick up and drop off passengers, at any moment’s notice.

Some say that road lines in Nigeria are merely ornamentation and sometimes, people go into opposite moving lanes, just to get to their destinations quicker – or to avoid potholes. Yet, the potholes are the size of swimming pools. There’s about 24 deaths per 100, 000 drivers in Nigeria, which puts the country among the most dangerous places to drive.

4.    Thailand

Thailand is 44th on the list of deadliest places to drive and has 28 deaths per one hundred thousand drivers. They say that the biggest killer in Thailand is the high number of motorcyclists and that about 80% of the road deaths happen to those on bikes. Apparently, at the beginning of 2017, nearly 500 people lost their lives in just one week.

Many attempts have been made over the past decade to improve driving safety on the 462, 133 Thai roads. That includes encouraging the use of helmets for motorcyclists, enforcement of the speed limit, and also a reduction of impaired drivers. Yet, it’s been all in vain, since nothing’s really improved. Many of the major accidents haven’t garnered any real penalty, even when there’s been an at-fault driver. There are reports of car crash deaths, where a distracted driver killed people, yet paid a measly $30 fine, without any follow up or severe sentencing.

3.    Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is among the top tier of worst places to drive. They say that the reason it’s so dangerous is because so many people, who drive mopeds and motorcycles, don’t wear helmets. Stats indicate that wearing a helmet would decrease deaths by 40%, since it would reduce the incidence of hemorrhages, cranial damage, internal organ trauma, and blood loss. Yet, officers don’t enforce helmets and drivers can be as young as 10. Then, older drivers are quite often drunk. So, about 20% of the population driving motorcycles is at high risk of death. Especially, since intensive care units are not abundant and sometimes, people have to wait hours before reaching medical care services. They often don’t make it. About 29 out of one hundred thousand die each year in DR from road accidents.

2.    Saudi Arabia

The driving situation in Saudi Arabia has actually improved since the early 2000’s, which is saying a lot, since it’s still ranked as the 34th most dangerous country to drive. The main cause of accidents in the country seems to be reckless driving. There have been reports of constant speeding, often at 200 KPH, and overtaking on the shoulder, driving down opposite moving lanes, backing up on highways to missed turn-offs, and driving straight through red lights. Signaling to change lanes hasn’t been listed as commonplace however honking and signaling to get a slow moving car to move out of the way has been. There are also many reports of drifting on street roads for sport, with many viewers, who sometimes get hit by regular street cars that are not designed for drifting.

A big push happened to get the streets safer for 2018, since finally, women in Saudi Arabia would become allowed to drive. Thus, an increase in automated speed traps and the inclusion of recordings at red lights have deterred reckless drivers enough to make Saudi’s roads slightly safer. Yet, 31 people per one hundred thousand still die each year. Perhaps, the millions of newly introduced female drivers will help to decrease the overall speed of the roads over time.

1.    Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is ranked as the number one most dangerous place to drive and 62 drivers out of a hundred thousand, die each year. Deaths have been related to speeding, massive potholes, and lack of lighting for night driving, like missing headlights, taillights, and streetlights. The roads lack passing lanes, shoulders, and enforcement of safe driving practices. The high number of distracted drivers and people driving while under the influence causes serious accidents, which are only made worse, since ambulances are often delayed and medical service is inadequate.

Apparently, what’s nearly as bothersome as all the deadly accidents, are the many road blocks that are virtually everywhere. Uniformed officers are eager to dish out fines and there’s one report of a traveler who, in 2017, spent more time at check points than driving. It was stated that a road block could be found every 20 kilometers and each lasted about 15 minutes. Fines were for ‘technical’ issues like, missing reflective stickers and not having a fire extinguisher. In two days, a total of $100 had been accumulated in fines. Another inconvenience of driving in Zimbabwe is the lack of fuel at service stations, which is why, it’s always recommended to keep a spare tank.

Anyone thinking to opt for other modes of transportation in Zimbabwe may want to think twice, since the buses are even worse. The drivers have been reported to go very recklessly and to be uninsured more often than not. Even the rail system has been reported to have been involved in numerous accidents because of poorly marked level crossings, which is where the railway and the road intersect.

Conclusion

One thing that’s undeniable is that the joy of driving outweighs the risk, even for countries whose chances of dying in a car accident far exceed that of cancer and other common causes of death. Consider yourself lucky if you live in one of the safer driving countries and always learn about the driving conditions before travel. Perhaps, some places may be better experienced the old fashioned way – on foot.