Early on a morning in June, Shannon Marie Nuth, just shy of her 25th birthday, was returning to Antigua after spending the weekend near Lake Atitlán, Guatemala. The bus she was riding in went out of control, flipped several times and crashed.
“She was thrown from the vehicle and killed instantly,” Joseph Nuth said of his daughter, who had been studying Spanish at a non-university program to help with her volunteer work at home in Prince George’s County, Md. She had recently been accepted into a master’s degree program in counseling at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
Ms. Nuth fell victim to a danger that American students may not recognize in advance: the risk of being killed in a road crash while studying abroad.
As the number of American students who study abroad continues to grow — particularly in less-developed regions where traffic fatalities are most prevalent — academic and safety specialists worry that the road-death toll will rise, unless students and sponsors of overseas study programs understand the dangers and guard against the risks.
The number of Americans who study abroad in credit-earning programs has more than tripled in the last two decades to reach a high of nearly 304,500 in the 2013-14 academic year, and the number studying in non-European countries has nearly doubled in the last decade to 118,625, the Institute of International Education said.
“The problem is educating students in something they are not used to thinking about,” said Inés DeRomaña. She is director of international health, safety and emergency response for the University of California system’s Education Abroad Program, which sends 5,600 students, from all 10 campuses, overseas annually, including to remote areas.
Road fatalities are a risk for young people everywhere. They are the leading cause of death for teens and young adults in the United States and worldwide, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization show. But the concern for educators is that students heading abroad may not consider some uniquely local risks of road travel — particularly in low- and middle-income countries, where W.H.O. figures indicate about 90 percent of the globe’s road-traffic deaths occur.
The particular challenges in many parts of the world involve poor roads and infrastructure, weak traffic laws, poorly trained drivers and vehicles that are old and not maintained.
In the United States, there were 10.6 road fatalities per 100,000 population of all ages in 2013, the W.H.O. said, compared with 19.0 in Guatemala and 26.2 in Ghana.
And while the number of American students who die in vehicle accidents abroad is not tracked, the State Department says road crashes are the top killer of healthy Americans of all ages who travel abroad. The total is about 750 deaths in the last three years.
Read more of the original article at The New York Times.