Driving in India

Driving in India isn’t for the faint-hearted.

I will explain.

Imagine a 3 lane road. There should be 3 lanes of traffic, right? Each vehicle in single file, right?

Not in India. If there is a 3 lane road, you might really see 5 or 6 lanes of traffic.

Here’s how it is. If there is space between two cars, one or two motorcycles or scooters might fit into that space, or an auto rickshaw. Bicycles and people walking by foot stay on the outer lanes of traffic. The same lanes of traffic are of course also shared by buses and trucks.

I used to think this was opportunistic– people trying to get ahead of everyone else and be first. I also wondered if this people were hard to govern– is it hard to enforce rules? Corruption, is after all, a major issue here.  Rules are bent and broken.

Maybe some of that is true, but I also think there is more to it.

The first reason has to do with space and waste. I notice that people don’t like to waste things. And, space and land is at a premium here. I can see how the extra space between cars in defined traffic lanes might be viewed as a waste of space if no one fills in that gap.

I also realize that with so much population and crowding and the traffic jams in cities, if people did stick in those single file lanes of traffic, traffic would move even slower. Despite the organization and lack of following certain rules, they seem to have figured out a way to make it work.

Well, there you go, my two cents analsyis on why traffic is the way it is, and I’m not sure it’s even worth that much. I believe I have left out more reasons.

But that’s not so much the scary part. The scary part is actually driving on roads or highways. Here’s what happens.

Buses and large trucks are quite slow, so people in cars and minivans want to pass them. Cars also want to pass motorcycles. No one can really go the full speed limit because of the number of trucks and buses and scooters and motorcycles on the road. Cars want to pass them so they can go faster. Buses pass other slower buses or trucks. So what happens is that even for a one or two lane road, there is so much passing going on. Lights are flashing, horns are constantly honking and people are passing. And the passing isn’t the kind of pass that involves long stretches of road in the front– oh, no! It means that you’ll be passing quickly and quickly moving back into your own lane and drive only a few inches between  you and the truck coming in the opposite direction. This will happen repeated times. Very often you will find yourself on the dusty shoulder as you move as far as you can to make space for all the passing vehicles. You might be surprised at how many near misses you will feel like you have, by the time it is all said and done, and you will have breathed a heavy prayer of thanks to God for keeping you safe and alive and in one piece.

It’s even more scary at night.

At night, even with headlights, there is a dusty haze over the roads. As cars pass, they stir up the dust on the shoulder. This dust, combined with the air pollution, makes it hazy. And at times, I could only see headlights coming at me from the haze.

This was last night. Whew– we made it safely, but it is really how driving is here. I prefer traveling in daylight hours but yesterday it couldn’t be helped.

I was in an accident 16 years ago. I was traveling at night by auto rickshaw ( a three-wheeler taxi) with two other people to the local train station. On the way there, we were hit by a truck. The truck did not stop, it kept going. The auto scooter was totalled. Thankfully we all survived. My companion to the right of me was most injured, with swollen knees and her sari was tattered. I had one swollen knee and one scraped knee. The companion to my left had no injuries. That knee injury took about a year before I forgot about it, and now it only flares up very occasionally, when temperatures change.

I am not at all afraid to travel by auto rickshaw but I won’t be traveling at night. My daughter is quite interested in riding in one, so we will do this. Air pollution makes it unpleasant in the cities but it is still something fun to try while here!

More to share later, I have more to share– but little time– and a goofy internet connection!!!

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2 thoughts on “Driving in India

  1. Bangkok is the same. A motorcycle clipped my arm once when we were crossing from the bus stop to our apartment tower and he was zooming along the “motorcycle lane” (aka dashed line) to pass a car. Remarkably, it only left a bruise, but we generally tried to avoid crossing on foot. We never drove there. At least one night we also heard screeching tires and the unmistakable sound of a collision from our apartment on the 21st floor with windows closed and a.c. running! It’s quite the learning curve, isn’t it? Will stop and pray for you and yours now.

    1. Wow, I’m glad to hear you weren’t hurt more than a bruise. We don’t drive, either, just rely on family, friends, or hire drivers. I think it would take quite some time to learn to drive here. One has to stay alert at all times!

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