India, with almost a billion and a half people, is home to some of the most reckless driving known to humankind.
Incessant honking, the overpowering smell of diesel, and dust billowing behind cars might be the first things a visitor might notice, but there’s far more to safely navigating roads in India than meets the eye.
Here are a few things to consider…
Crossing the street is a game of chicken: Confident pedestrians have a protective aura around them. Cars that might otherwise run them over feel obligated to swerve.
Honking is a courtesy: Lanes in India are mere suggestions. When vehicles approach a pedestrian, or other drivers from behind, they honk to warn them.
What traffic signals? While most drivers obey traffic signals, a good number choose to ignore them, especially those on bikes. Whether you’re driving or crossing the street, just keep a lookout for motorcycles coming around the corner.
A method to the madness: Despite apparent chaos on the roads, there is still a flow to traffic. While drivers might be playing bumper cars in heavy traffic, it still stands to reason that nobody wants to damage their cars or hurt other people. It just takes some getting used to.
Traffic cops: India has traffic police posted at many intersections in major cities. According to locals, however, they are no more than living tolls, looking to extract bribes. If one motions for your vehicle to pull over, you can, in theory, keep driving. They do not carry weapons or have vehicles capable of pursuit.
Animal crossing: Unlike driving in the states, wandering animals are in abundance in India. Cows, monkeys, dogs, or perhaps a goat may find its way into traffic. Keep in mind, the repercussions for hurting a cow in India can be severe.
Before getting behind the wheel of a car in India, take some time to observe the flow of traffic for at least a few days. While the roads may seem like anarchy, that doesn’t mean one has carte blanche while driving. Be cautious but decisive as a driver or pedestrian and leave the rest to good fortune.