India being one of the world’s most populous countries, it should come as no surprise that driving in India means getting used to crowded and congested roads. Driving is rather dangerous, particularly in India's cities. In 2010, over 135,000 people died in road-related situations, and according to the Hindustan Times, traffic fatalities claimed a life every three to four minutes in 2011. Furthermore, when it comes to road traffic deaths per 100,000 population, with a rate of 18.9, India is beaten only by Thailand and Timor Leste in the South-East Asia region, according to the World Health Organisation.
It is difficult to control the amount of accidents on the roads, as many motorists do not obey traffic laws. There are very few pedestrian crossings, which makes both driving in India and being a pedestrian rather dangerous. The only good news is that people’s awareness has been raised, leading to the founding of road safety groups such as ArriveSAFE.
If you do not want to rely on public transportation to get around, it is highly recommended that you hire a chauffeur who has a couple of years of experience. They will have a better grasp of what driving in India is all about as they are more familiar with the rules of the road. Due to India’s low wages, these drivers are affordable and, more importantly, they will get you to your destination in one piece.
Driving in India will require you to share the road with rickshaws, speeding trucks, mopeds packed to their maximum capacity, dozens of other cars, and animals. Traffic in India’s gigantic cities is also very noisy. Many Indian drivers honk their horns relentlessly. Contrary to the standards you might be used to in your home country, a horn is mainly used as a means of expressing oneself whilst driving in India — conveying every kind of emotion while using a single instrument. Some might also do it just for the sake of it. There is nothing to be done about this, except hop on the bandwagon and honk your horn!
Despite the country being third in the world as far as the extent of its road network is concerned, India’s more than 4.1 million kilometers of roadways are often far from well developed. Potholes, speed breakers, shards of glass, and cow dung are just some of the things you may find on the road while driving in India. Additionally, flooding may occur, which will in turn cause sewers to overflow — this can drastically slow down the pace of driving. The marriage, birthday or funeral procession of an important person in a larger city may cause an eternal traffic jam with lots of honking horns.
A vital piece of information for safe — or at least, safer — driving in India is the unofficial pecking order for the right-of-way: cows (because they are considered holy), large trucks, buses, SUVs, cars, mopeds, rickshaws, bicycles, and, lastly, pedestrians. Many motorists play ‘chicken’ while driving, meaning that they will drive in the middle of the road, challenging oncoming traffic to move aside into the ditch. Try not to get involved in this game, and if your driver does it, just look away and hope for the best!
The key to safe driving in India is to come armed with patience. Engaging in road rage is extremely dangerous and will get you nowhere, except perhaps into the nearest hospital. Keep your eyes peeled and be ready to break, swerve, and accelerate all at virtually the same time.
If you happen to be involved in an accident, try to settle it with the other driver as quickly as possible. Avoid drawing the attention of other drivers or pedestrians. They will usually take the side of the Indian driver or the driver with the smaller vehicle, and this may erupt in a fight.
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