Australian journalist Tom Allard has exploded the myth that foreign tourists visiting Bali need to be most concerned about terrorism, natural disasters, drugs, corrupt officials and police, rabid dogs, Indonesian airline safety, unhygienic tattoo parlours, Kuta cowboys and other items often mentioned in alarmist travel advisories.
In his article, "Accident Waiting To Happen", Mr Allard shows that the most life-threatening activity for tourists - many of them his compatriots - is another more mundane/common activity: adopting the local habit of driving/riding motorcyles without helmets.
Don't tell their mothers...
Gallery of similar photos here
Possibly similar to their evening activities these tourists wouldn't dare do the same thing in their home country, but somehow feel it is different in Bali. Despite taxis and cars with drivers available for hire everywhere (one time there was even a brawl between drivers from existing taxi companies and a new competitor), tourists often prefer this more dangerous alternative.
Wearing helmets is indeed compulsory in Bali, but not strictly enforced. The Bali police chief has previously been more concerned by foreign tourists not wearing shirts than not wearing helmets, suggesting motorcyclists' safety is not his top priority.
However, Mr Allard writes, it becomes a problem when a tourist has an accident. They are disturbingly common in Bali; 150-300 people are treated daily for road-related injuries at the largest public hospital, Sanglah. It was once famous for treating many victims of the Bali bombing, including Australian football player Jason McCartney. These days, foreign patients are rather less heroic; an Australian volunteer working at the hospital described them as "young and drunk and without helmets".
In September 2011, an Australian lady on her honeymoon died after a collision in Legian.
Mr Allard also warns an accident in Bali can also be disastrous for the careless foreign tourist's finances. Every few days, one is sent to Singapore, Perth or Darwin for further treatment after a crash. Travel insurance does not cover medical expenses when the claimant broke local road rules in the process, such as not wearing a helmet or having a valid international driver's licence. Medical evacuation costs $25 000, and intensive care in Singapore is currently costing one British family of a crash victim $20 000 per week; they have had to remortgage their house.
These are all sobering facts, but what about all the Indonesian motorcycle crash victims?
Nationally, it is no better. The Indonesian road toll for 2010 was 31 234 people, or more than 3 deaths every hour.The Jakarta Post What could Indonesians and their government do to improve road safety awareness in a culturally sensitive way and to reduce the road toll? More generally, who do you think is ultimately responsible for road safety in Bali?
Regarding c), some may argue that some victims bring it upon themselves by their own foolishness, à la Darwin Awards.
However, victims and third parties surely feel differently.
Based on the statistics above, here is an alternative travel advisory for Indonesia:
on a motorcycle, especially
when drunk and/or not
wearing a helmet
What do you think can be done to encourage tourists and locals to take road safety more seriously, rather than taking the "Highway to Hell"?
Suggestions, comments and personal experiences welcome.