Friday, November 12, 2010

Indian Traffic and Rules of the Road




All cities have unique identifiers. Those of Beijing include waves of surging bicycles and no memory of Saigon would be complete without a recollection of cable webs that crisscross streets in spider-like fashion. These are visual memories. Those of Delhi are aural. India's infrastructure simply cannot handle its love affair with the automobile. In cities there are more cars than space in which to drive them and traffic laws, if they exist at all, appear to be ignored. The ensuing traffic makes precise scheduling of appointments impossible and leads to an atonal symphony of constantly blaring horns. Delhi is, hands down, the noisiest place I've ever visited. Residents love their cars and horns and use both with abandon. "Traveling on Indian roads is an almost hallucinatory mix of sound, spectacle and experience. It is frequently heart-rending, sometimes hilarious, mostly exhilarating, always unforgettable -- and, when you are on the roads, extremely dangerous." Over the years a unique highway code, tongue-in-cheek of course, has been developed to assist those brave enough to drive in India. I think you'll enjoy reading it.

Rules Of The Road, Indian Style


    The assumption of immortality is required of all road users.


    Indian traffic, like Indian society,is structured on a strict caste system. The following precedence must be accorded at all times. In descending order, give way to:

  • Cows, elephants, heavy trucks, buses, official cars, camels, light trucks, buffalo, jeeps, ox-carts, private cars, motorcycles, scooters, auto-rickshaws, pigs, pedal rickshaws, goats, bicycles (goods-carrying), handcarts, bicycles (passenger-carrying), dogs, pedestrians.

    All wheeled vehicles shall be driven in accordance with the maxim: to slow is to falter, to brake is to fail, to stop is defeat. This is the Indian drivers' mantra.


    Use of horn (also known as the sonic fender or aural amulet):

  • Cars (IV,1,a-c):

    1. Short blasts (urgent) indicate supremacy, i.e., in clearing dogs, rickshaws and pedestrians from path.
    2. Long blasts (desperate) denote supplication, i.e., to oncoming truck: "I am going too fast to stop, so unless you slow down we shall both die". In extreme cases this may be accompanied by flashing of headlights (frantic).
    3. Single blast (casual) means: "I have seen someone out of India's 1.15 billion whom I recognize", "There is a bird in the road (which at this speed could go through my windscreen)" or "I have not blown my horn for several minutes."

  • Trucks and buses (IV,2,a):

    All horn signals have the same meaning, namely: "I have an all-up weight of approximately 12.5 tons and have no intention of stopping, even if I could." This signal may be emphasized by the use of headlamps.

  • Article IV remains subject to the provision of Order of Precedence in Article II above.


    All maneuvers, use of horn and evasive action shall be left until the last possible moment.


    In the absence of seat belts (which there is), car occupants shall wear garlands of marigolds. These should be kept fastened at all times.


    1. Rights of way:

      Traffic entering a road from the left has priority. So has traffic from the right, and also traffic in the middle.

    2. Lane discipline (VII,1):

      All Indian traffic at all times and irrespective of direction of travel shall occupy the center of the road.


    Roundabouts: India has no roundabouts. Apparent traffic islands in the middle of crossroads have no traffic management function. Any other impression should be ignored.


    Overtaking is mandatory. Every moving vehicle is required to overtake every other moving vehicle, irrespective of whether it has just overtaken you.

    Overtaking should only be undertaken in suitable conditions, such as in the face of oncoming traffic, on blind bends, at junctions and in the middle of villages/city centers. No more than two inches should be allowed between your vehicle and the one you are passing -- and one inch in the case of bicycles or pedestrians.


    Nirvana may be obtained through the head-on crash.


    Reversing: no longer applicable since no vehicle in India has reverse gear.


    The 10th incarnation of God was an articulated tanker.


Tom said...

That is insane. I'be seen video clips of the dangerous driving in India, but it makes more sense now after reading your explanations. Be careful!

Lyndas recipe box said...

Looking at the pictures and then reading the rules made me laugh....if I was in that traffic though, I think I would be hysterical! So glad you made it home Mary.

Ginny Hartzler said...

This is a total scream, Mary!! And I love your three pictures. But I just don't see how anyone can get anywhere in looking at them. It seems it would be faster to walk, does it ever get so the cars can move at a decent pace?

My Little Space said...

Oh my, this is no jokes at all! Just imagine if I was there jam in half way. No wonder some of the Indian blogger did mentioned about the traffic there and normally they will heading out 5 hours before time. It means if you're taking 3pm train then you must make a move before 11am, even if you're staying just a few kilometres away!

Jamie said...

Mary, this is the funniest thing I have read in so long. The way you describe it all is hysterical. But so scary. I so long to visit India and I envy you this trip but boy I am not sure I'd risk every getting into a car. I hope you are having a wonderful non-traffic trip.

Lemon Verbena Lady said...

This is similar to driving in Lima, Peru, Mary! Very, very, very scary! Glad you made it home and hope your bumps are better as well! Nancy

Alessandra said...

Well, next time I am there I will rent an elephant. :-)

Angie's Recipes said...

GOSH...that's crowded and insane.

Karen from Globetrotter Diaries said...

HAHAHA!! What a joy to read this! So well written and SO TRUE. I especially loved article VI :)

kitchen flavours said...

I've been to Beijing and the bicycle traffic is unbelieveable, but this is ridiculous! The rules of the road left me grinning from ear to ear! GOSH! Thanks for sharing this, I've really enjoyed reading them!

Pondside said...

I got a bit panicked just reading the post - can't imagine how I'd do in the reality of Indian traffic! You are brave.........

Zurin said...

A beautifully written piece. hysterical....LOLOL

glad you made it home inspite of..:P

Flavia Galasso said...

I enjoied to read this...but thinking it's real's incredible!!!
XOXOXOXO ....hugs,EliFla

Historical sites with charmine said...

Mary hope you had a nice trip.
From the pics it seems you went to crowded areas like Chandini chowk-I live near Delhi and yes the traffic is a pain at peak hours but they also have wide main roads and it is not always like this.And elephants? Those road rules look like they were from decades earlier,not all that holds true anymore,fun to read though.The population is more than a billion now and with the economy on the rise here,people have more vehicles now.I agree that driving on such roads(in pics)is a challenge.

It's best to avoid the rush hour traffic-a billion + people remember.

From the Kitchen said...

The first thing that popped into my mind was "I hope there's no woman in labor in one of those cars". I'll be much more patient (and grateful) in Chicago traffic--at least for awhile. I'm fairly certain that people in Delhi do not drive around the block looking for a parking space!!


nannykim said...

Yes, I have heard about how bad it is and seen it on videos....I am so glad I don't have to drive there!

Tasha said...

Thanks for starting my day off with a laugh. I can't even imagine! What an experience that must've been for you.

What's next said...

That is too funny! I lived in Tehran, Iran as a teen when my dad worked there and traffic there was the same... horns, turning L from the R lane when ever possible, camels, etc... so glad you had a good trip and are home safely.

Unknown said...

I guess I will stop complaining about my daily commute to work!! OMG that is so crazy!!

Unknown said...

Welcome home Mary!

I LOVE this post, so funny! It hurts my head looking at those photos!

oneordinaryday said...

Wow. What incredible scenes you were part of. Great post.

PeggyR said...

I'm glad I don't have to drive over there!

Katerina said...

I completely understand the chaos that exists in their roads. I wouldn't want to drive there either.

Joe Ambrosino said...

Hahaha Mary! This is the trouble with a population that believes in incarnation!I always caution my wife she could come back as a frog. She hates frogs so it makes her a cautious driver.

Priya Suresh said...

Omg, still remember how we guys managed driving bikes in India..we arent proud of our traffic..But most probably coz of over population, its scary to see the pictures..

black eyed susans kitchen said...

If this were not true, it would be hilarious. It is actually quite terrifying to me!

Pam said...

I am stressed out just by looking at the pictures. The rules are crazy!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

This is something we would truly have to experience to understand fully Mary. What an experience it would be!

Big Dude said...

As best I can tell, outside of the US there are no rules, except gutiest guy wins.

Faith said...

Oh my goodness, I don't think I'll ever complain about traffic here again! I'm glad you were able to stay safe.

The rules are hilarious, Mary!


Fabulous pictures. I remember when I lived in Saigon ~ if your horn wasn't working . . . you didn't dare use your car.

Welcome home, Mary. Hope your transition home has been sweet. I look forward to hearing more about your trip.


The Blonde Duck said...

Oh my gosh. Talk about traffic.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Oddly enough, some of this sounds like traffic on Long Island, although I know they are worlds apart. And, I've never seen anyone on LI wearing garlands of marigolds instead of seat belts!

The last photo struck fear into my heart...

Anonymous said...

I love this!
It reminds me a lot
of Korea.

Jeannie said...

And I thought our traffic here is bad! Enjoyed reading the traffic rules:D

Tracy said...

Great pictures! There's a TV show about truckers driving the world's most dangerous roads, and my husband loves the one about the cliff-side roads of India. It makes me hyperventilate. That must have been quite an adventure.

Spoon and Chopsticks said...

That's quite an experience you had. Thanks for sharing.

Lori said...

Oh my Mary this is funny... crazy funny.

M @ Betty Crapper said...

I will never complain about Miami traffic ever again.

Unknown said...

RIGHT IF WAY in traffic Rule is not Followed at all . and No body know it ,

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