Monday, February 26, 2007

On driving in India

I know this subject has been covered by everybody, but driving in India is such a big part of the experience I just feel I need to add my thoughts and comments as well.
There are no road rules in India! This was my first impression. Total chaos prevails. Now that I have been driving here for some time I have changed my mind somewhat. There are a few rules to traffic in India:
  1. Everything is allowed. Drive down the highway in the wrong direction, drive on any side of the road, u-turn everywhere including highways and so on. I think you get the picture.
  2. Honk your horn. This will guarantee you right of way. Hence there is no need to check for oncoming traffic when pulling into a road, just honk your horn first. Everybody else will then just get out of your way!
As you can imagine the topic of driving in India is always popular when I meet up with other motorcycle travelers. Some of them think that as with everything else in India, traffic is chaotic but in the end it works out just fine. I don't agree. I have seen a lot of accidents and I do think things would work better here if some simple rules were laid down and enforced by the authorities. But unfortunately this is not the case. So yes, chaos reigns and it is bound to get worse as the number of cars and motorcycles grows!
The worst breed of drivers are the motorcycle drivers. Here are some of the things that I have seen motorcycle drivers do:
  1. talk on the mobile while driving!
  2. write a text message on the mobile while driving!
  3. talk on the mobile while driving down the wrong way on a highway!
  4. talk on the mobile with a female passenger on the back who is also talking on the mobile and holding a baby in her arm!
I always drive with my headlights on. This seems to be a big problem for the whole male population of India. Everywhere I go very eager Indian males point out to me that my lights are on. They will pass me in hair raising maneuvers, come to a complete stop right in front of me only to point at my lights! Police will stop directing traffic to make the 'lights on' hand signal! So news flash to all Indian males: Yes I know my lights are on. I like it that way, because at least this way you will hopefully notice me!
Here is another thing I see every day: A lot of times I will be cruising along on my side of the road and then see myself confronted with an oncoming vehicle in my lane. The first reaction of this vehicle will not be to pull back or get out of the way, but to honk his horn! Yes, hello! You are in my lane and honking your horn is not going to improve the situation!
But then again I have to admit, it works. In the end I break or I get off the road. I guess I am not made out for this chicken game! But then judging by the number of car- and truck wrecks I see neither are a lot of the local drivers!
In the newspapers accidents are always referred to as 'mishaps'! Here is a typical newspaper article about such a mishap:"Seven dead in mishap: Seven persons died and more than 50 people were injured when the bus carrying them fell off a hilly road at Kalinga Ghat in Kandhamal district on Monday. The accident took place when the driver lost control over the bus while negotiating a downhill turn near Andharkota temple, about 13 km from G-Udayagirir, sources said."
When driving in India you get to see a lot of what is going on in rural India as well. Most roads will got through every village on the way. When you drive early in the morning as I do this means you will see a lot of man taking a dump by the side of the road, little pot of water for washing up afterwards in hand. But in plain sight of everybody who just so happens to drive by. Also during the course of the day, you will see a lot of men taking a piss all over the place. I have to say I find this pretty disgusting. Also I would like to point out, that you only see men doing this. No women! But I do assume Indian women have the same needs. So half the Indian population actually manages to do what is necessary while laking the proper sanitary installation without everybody noticing it. So what is wrong with Indian males?
While on the subject of disgusting habits: there is spitting! That has to be the worst! I hate passing buses, because you never know. Sure enough the other day I was passing a truck when a big, fat, slimy spat landed right on me! Disgusting!
All in all I find driving in India not a very enjoyable exercise. I love the fact that I get to see a lot of what is actually going on in India. But most of the time it is just a lot of work on a lot of really bad roads. And you never know what you are going to see next. You constantly have to be prepared for everything. The other day I was passing a bus on a two lane highway, only to come face to face with a big bull charging down the highway at full speed!


Anonymous said...

you forgot flashing lights. if honking the horn doesn't work, then flashing lights will... said...

Much of the world wide web is full of sarcasm & mocking of driving on Indian roads.

This site has been created with the purpose of providing driver education and training rather than criticism.

At present I have produced and made available 17 driver education videos aimed at changing the driving culture on Indian roads are available. To watch the videos, please visit:

The videos cover the following topics:

Video 1: Covers the concept of Blind spots
Video 2: Introduces the principle of Mirrors, Signal and Manoeuvre
Video 3: At red lights, stop behind the stop line
Video 4: At red lights there are no free left turns
Video 5: The Zebra belongs to pedestrians
Video 6: Tyres and Tarmac (rather than bumper to bumper)
Video 7: Merging with the Main road
Video 8: Leaving The Main Road
Video 9: Never Cut Corners
Video 10: Show Courtesy on roads
Video 11: 5 Rules that help deal with Roundabouts
Video 12: Speed limits, stopping distances, tailgating & 2 seconds rule
Video 13: Lane discipline and overtaking
Video 14: Low beam or high beam?
Video 15: Parallel (reverse parking) made easy
Video 16: Give the cyclist the respect of a car
Video 17: Dealing with in-car condensation

Many thanks