May 16, 2011

Comments Off on How Safe is Cancun for Tourists?

How Safe is Cancun for Tourists?


The news media routinely carries stories about how violent and dangerous Mexico is.  But the reality is that most of that violence takes places thousands of miles away from Cancun and the Riviera Maya.  And very, very little of that violence has any effect on tourists visiting Mexico.

Death Data of Tourists Visiting Cancun & Riviera Maya

I was privileged to get my hands on some data about deaths of foreigners who were in Cancun or the Riviera Maya at the time of their deaths.

Here’s what the data showed:

Basic Data

  • Total foreigner deaths in the data sample: 93
  • Date range of deaths: January 2007 to April 2009
  • Average age at death: 53.6 years
  • Males: 67
  • Females: 26
  • Number who were married: 61
  • Number who were single: 32
  • Number who died between midnight and noon (in the a.m.): 48
  • Number who died between noon and midnight (in the p.m.): 45

Nationalities of Foreigners Who Died

  • Americans: 56
  • Australians: 1
  • Belgians: 1
  • British: 6
  • Canadians: 14
  • Chinese: 1
  • Dutch: 2
  • El Salvadorans: 1
  • French: 1
  • Germans: 4
  • Irish: 1
  • Italians: 1
  • Polish: 1
  • Spanish: 1
  • Swedish: 1
  • Swiss: 1

Note that the majority of tourists visiting Mexico are Americans, and Canadians come in second.  So the high number of American deaths is because most of the tourists visiting here are American.

Causes of Death of Foreigners Visiting Cancun & Riviera Maya

  • Heart Attacks: 38  (40% of all deaths)
  • Drowning: 22  (23% of all deaths)
  • Car Accidents: 7  (7.5% of all deaths)
  • Septic Shock: 3
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage: 2
  • Pneumonia: 2
  • Multiple Sclerosis: 2
  • Cerebral Edema: 2
  • Asthma Attack: 1
  • Fall from Balcony: 1
  • Choking on Food: 1
  • Multiple Organ Failure: 1
  • Sudden Death: 1
  • Complications from various pre-existing conditions: 10

People Die From Heart Attacks Here
In looking through the medical notes for the people who died from heart attacks many of them has pre-existing conditions or were morbidly obese.  It seems likely that these people would have had a heart attack at some point regardless of where they were.

People Die from Drowning Here
A total of 22 deaths in the sample were from drowning.  Sometimes there was an indication in the medical notes that the person was drunk at the time that they drowned.  Often the notes say that the person was swimming or snorkeling then either got injured or had a heart attack, and then drowned.  So often the drownings seemed to come about as a result of the situation the person was in.  Note that the 2 cases of Cerebral Edema appeared, from the notes, to be diving accidents.

People Die in Car Accidents Here
Wear your seat belts!  I can tell you from driving here that I have near-misses in traffic all the time here.  People here drive like maniacs.  You may be on vacation when you are here but wear your seat belt anyway.

People Die from Normal Stuff Here
I’m no medic, but the data I reviewed looked like lots of people come here and die as a result of some pre-existing condition.  The medical notes for these deaths are full of notes about how the person suffered from Diabetes or Cirrhosis or Epilepsy or some other disease.

What the Data Doesn’t Show
The data didn’t show any violence against tourists.  There wasn’t a single gunshot victim among the death data I saw.  Not one death was from a stabbing or any other type of violence.  In the data sample I studied there simply wasn’t any indication at all that tourists die from violence here.

Furthermore the data fits the understanding I had of how tourists die here.  Before seeing this data I had heard of people dying of heart attacks and drownings and car accidents and the occasional fall from a balcony.

Use Common Sense
The thing I learned from studying this data is that you cannot leave your common sense at home when you go on vacation.  If you don’t swim well then take extra care when you go in the ocean.  Make sure to eat well and take your medicines.  Be sure to wear your seat belt.  It may sound silly but don’t get drunk and wander around in riptides.  Don’t get drunk and lean way over balcony railings.  Be careful, just the way you would be at home.