On Driving in India

Autorickshaw, a Popular Mode of Transportation


Indian drivers are among the most proactive I’ve ever seen. That’s the only way I can put it. Oh wait, here’s another: Indian drivers maximize the amount of time they are in motion. You might think this is not so unlike Western drivers, but read on…

Middle of the Road: In India, it is typical to drive in the middle of two lanes. That is, specifically, straddling the line. If one driver comes upon another and wants the straddler to move over, he indicates such wish with his horn.

Toot Toot Tootie: If one driver wishes to overtake another (this mostly includes passing in a distinctly separate lane, as is frequently and silently done in other countries), wants the driver ahead of him to accelerate or the driver next to him to slow slightly to let him in, it is 100% expected that the driver will use his horn. Two short beeps are common, but long, angry honks seem to be completely fine.

Red Light, Green Light: In addition to competing with other drivers going in the same direction, drivers must also look out for traffic coming from different directions. This could be any other direction at all. When an oncoming vehicle looks like it will not stop, drivers are not deterred; they just go anyway. It goes without saying that red lights are completely ignored late at night.

Wide Eyes: In addition to all of the above, Indian drivers must deftly maneuver the livestock (mostly goats, cows and chickens), stray dogs and cats, pedestrians and bicyclists that share the road. And the garbage. And the people selling stuff – mostly newspapers, fruit, flowers. And the children begging for money.

If you visit India, driving is an unavoidable, unique experience. The best way to handle it is to put your seatbelt on and relax.

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