Hell on Wheels – Scooter Safety

Scooters are lethal weapons.

By the time you’ve finished reading this article, 3 people will be dead from a motorbike accident.

Sure, Thailand is the most dangerous place in the world on two wheels. But without proper preparation, 2-stroke transport can kill you anywhere. Greece’s relaxed attitude toward boozing before driving earns it the highest death toll for motorcyclists in Europe.  The Dominican Republic and Paraguay top the New World list of fatalities due to inadequate or nonexistent vehicle standards. Togo leads Africa in 2-wheeled fatalities by breaking every rule on the WHO criteria for road safety.

Even in perceived safe regions, the unfamiliar can turn deadly. Despite relatively high road safety laws and standards, Malta’s motorcycle death toll is second in the EU, in part due its UK ‘drive left’ hangover.


Ya gotta have a beer with lunch, right? If you’re on a scooter, skip the hooch, but be prepared for plenty of riders who don’t. According to the WHO, most of the world has inadequate drink driving laws.

It’s a rental.

How many people have treated your transport thusly before you? Expect ramshackle machines maintained to the barest minimum of standards. It’s common practise for scooter rentals to lure you with shiny new bikes on display, then roll out some old hooptie after you sign the rental agreement. Check the bike you’re going to ride thoroughly before splashing out. Do the brakes work? Can you adjust the mirrors? Does the bike have mirrors?

Helmet hair

Wear your safety gear! Even in countries that don’t require a helmet. You may look beautiful with your hair flowing in the breeze, but faceplanting at speed doesn’t leave a pretty corpse. I’m a big fan of helmets with visors. Speaking from experience, a swollen eye from a big-bug-meets-face mishap can really dampen the tone of a tropical holiday.

Riding skills

Do you ride bikes at home? If you’re not confident enough to ride a motorcycle in your home country, where you understand the traffic laws, geography, and road culture, what makes you thing doing it in a foreign country on the ‘wrong’ side of the road is a good idea? How about riding with a passenger? Has your passenger ever ridden pillion? Brush up on your motorbike safety before you head out.


What are the road conditions like? How many potholes per k? What are the roads made of? How will weather affect the roads? Check the weather and road conditions beforehand. Vespas are supercute in the city, but those adorable itty-bitty wheels just don’t work off-road. Longer rides on cobbled streets may seem picturesque at first, but the reality is bone-jangling.

Road rage

Learn the traffic laws (and the ways locals break them) Which way the traffic goes, for starters. Is the driving culture patient, courteous, gracious? Probably not. Road rudeness differs region to region.

How dangerous is your next destination? Click on the infographic below to find out.

This is an updated version of an article previously published 19 December 2019.

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battleface editor Sasha Gayer
battleface magazine editor Sasha is a writer and amateur palaeontologist from New Orleans. When not writing or digging dinosaurs, she teaches English.