Welcome To Driving In India!
During the 9 hour drive from Delhi Airport to home, there were so many instances I thought for sure we were going to die. Then each and every time I am proven wrong I let out this huge sigh of relief. Till about 15 minutes later when the same feeling suddenly hits you again as the driver swerves into oncoming traffic at full speed to overtake a truck that is chugging way too slow in front of us. Suddenly he slams on the brakes as we now come across a herd of cattle that have just wondered out onto the road. Welcome to driving in India! There are no road rules, well there is one rule that majority of the public seem to abide by and that is you cannot drive slow.
Indian roads are chaotic and shared by all, including cars crammed like sardine cans, scooters with more passengers than it can fit, motorcycles zipping through traffic, tuk tuks carrying tourists, buses overflowing with passengers from its doors and winddows, bicycles towing a trailer full of goods, trucks with an oversized load, tractors chugging along, herds of cattle, goats or sheep, pedestrians, buffalos hauling a cart brimmed to the top with vegetables; essentially every man and his dog uses the road in India. There simply are no restrictions unlike many other civilised countries, so anything goes.
Labourer carting heavy load
I recall the time when I was a passenger in the car on our usual trip home from the market when we stopped to pick up relatives. I was left wondering where exactly will they sit as there are no seats left. Well that thought obviously never crossed their mind as they loaded into the car all three of them, sitting wherever there was space much to my apprehension. My face was squashed against the window and my body flat against the side of the car. I suffer from severe panic attacks and everyone looked at me startled wondering what was wrong with me. People in India don't suffer these conditions so no one has ever witnessed someone hyperventilating, crying and screaming all in the same motion. As you can guess I now am given the front seat of the car when we go out. It is a common sight in India to see people piled into cars, on scooters and motorcycles, jammed into buses or in trailers as a form of taxi. It is surprising that there aren't more accidents carrying obscene amounts of passengers in any one vehicle.
I haven't had the pleasure of driving in India yet, however I have done so in Spain and it is not dissimilar with no road rules. Should you drive too slow you will find that other drivers will blare the horn at you then swerve in front of you as they overtake you in the opposite lane with oncoming traffic. There never usually is any warning when a driver swerves in front of traffic especially as a passenger. Just as you think the driver is going to wait for the oncoming traffic to pass, he will swerve out and head straight for the oncoming truck as he overtakes. By the end of my 9 hour trip from the Delhi Airport I had whiplash and a massive headache as it is not a smooth trip. It is like a roller coaster both physically and emotionally.
Indian Signage is great entertainment on long trips with some very interesting slogans that they have come up. If only I had a chance to take a photo of all of them as some you just would not believe. Another form of entertainment on long road trips are Questions and Answers that are erected on signs to play as a game of trivia. The question will be on one sign and a few kilometres down the road will be the answer on another sign. There were some interesting questions also! Here are some of my favourite slogans from road signs that where on the way home from Delhi Airport:
" After Whisky Driving Risky"
"If You Sleep Your Family Will Weep"
"Mind Your Brakes Or Break Your Mind"
"Driving Faster Can Cause Disaster"
"Bro Better Be Mr Late Than To Be Late Mr"
Indian road signs are entertaining
Driving locally in suburbia is not much different except the pace is a little slower with the build up of traffic. You can park your car literally anywhere. I always question whomever is driving are you sure we should park here. I am always told no worries this is India! We had to turn back home to pick up something we forgot and we just left the car parked in the middle of the road. Or when we go out to the markets we will squeeze the car into any space whether it's in a carpark or not. If people are just making a quick stop at the shops they will leave the car in the middle of the road, keys in the ignition with the engine still running whilst they duck inside usually longer than a few minutes.
Many trucks, buffalo and carts, bicycle and carts or even cars will be overflowing with goods that they may need to take to the market or home. As we were driving to Delhi Airport at the end of my last stay, one particular vehicle had livestock feed piled into the car boot and protruding out so much so we could almost grab it from our vehicle. I have seen instances where there are fridges or other household items tied to the roof rack of cars. Or even being towed in a cart hauled by someone peddling a bicycle. There is no end to their imagination when it comes to getting something from A to B.
Vehicle with a load protruding from the boot
Wearing seat belts in India is not mandatory and you won't see anyone wearing them. Most of the time you won't find a vehicle that even has seat belts except for the front seats. Only the front passengers need to wear a seat belt and that is when they are going through border security or any security for that matter. I have only seen passengers wear a seat belt in those two occasions. So whilst there may be rules in place they aren't enforced by any means.
Unfinished roadworks are everywhere in India. Our local roads are being dug up at the moment to install plumbing and I have not seen one worker since its been dug up. Not to mention the highway to Delhi has had a detour since the last time I visited and still it has not had any progress made to constructions. All labour in India is done by hand, they don't have the same equipment that many civilised countries have. Workers use spades and buckets to clear the dirt. You will even see children helping out with the labour.
If you happen to visit India and aren't a confident or patient driver I would strongly suggest hiring drivers or using public transport. We always hire a driver on long trips mostly because it is a tiring drive being on full alert with India's traffic. A driver is more expensive however much safer and more comfortable. I have heard that you can even use your Uber App to hire drivers in India. So at least this way you know what costs to expect.
Have you had the pleasure of driving in India?