Monday, August 5, 2013

Rules of the Indian roads

After nearly 3 months in India I have finally worked out the rules of driving:
  • ALWAYS drive on the left hand side of the road unless it is inconvenient to you in which case you may drive on the right hand side;
  • Road markings are for decoration and employment purposes only; NEVER let them distract you;
  • Beeping your horn will make all other drivers do exactly as you wish them to do, so ALWAYS beep as frequently as you consider necessary (plus a few more for good luck);
  • ALWAYS Ignore other drivers who beep their horns; it’s not directed at you;
  • ALWAYS ignore road signs; they are intended for less skillful drivers than yourself;

  • NEVER brake; it is for wimps/people with inferior moustaches (these two variables are directly correlated);
  • NEVER indicate; you will lose the element of surprise;
  • ALWAYS speed up for corners; it makes them more fun;
  • Every driver is responsible for helping to prevent the road from getting too dry and cracking; ALWAYS spit on the road as regularly as possible (passengers and pedestrians are not subject to the same duty, but are free to join in);
  • ALWAYS slow down for road bumps and pot-holes unless you don’t wish to slow down and/or you’re not particularly concerned about the health and safety of your passengers;
  • NEVER transport too many people in your vehicle;

  • ALWAYS use your vehicle efficiently. Scooters should carry a minimum of 3 people, motorbikes can transport a family of 5, rickshaws can carry 7, cars 10+ etc; 
  • ALWAYS give way to those above you in the road hierarchy which is roughly as follows: pedestrian < bicycle < scooter < motorbike < rickshaw < car < van < bus < truck < cow;
  • If two vehicles are equal on the vehicle hierarchy then ALWAYS give way to the more aggressive driver/the driver with the better moustache (these two variables are directly correlated);
  • If you do not have right of way then you can ALWAYS make it (unless your ‘opposition’ is a cow);
  • ALWAYS have religious symbols and/or good luck charms in and/or on your vehicle; this will ensure that you do not have an accident irrespective of whether you follow the rules;
  • If you do have an accident it was ALWAYS the other person’s fault;
  • If you are at fault for an accident ALWAYS deny it;
  • ALWAYS decorate and personalise your vehicle; it makes it easier to identify the wreckage.

In all seriousness the Indian road system is pretty much a miracle. It is every bit as chaotic as the above rules suggest; horns are constantly honked and cross words/angry hand-gestures regularly exchanged, and it is frequently scary both as a pedestrian and a passenger, yet it somehow works. Like everything else in India, people somehow make it work; millions and millions of people use the road system every day and nearly every one of them gets to their destination safely. During our stay and many, many hours on the roads, we have witnessed no major accidents and only two very minor collisions both of which damaged neither vehicle. The road system appears to be an ‘organic’ and flexible system but one which every driver seems to understand and use effectively (if not always efficiently). Like the South Indian head wobble, the honk of a horn can have any number of different meanings, and yet the recipient always seems to know what it means and how to respond (albeit the response is often to return the gesture and continue the status quo). It really has to be experienced to be appreciated.

No comments:

Post a Comment