“Good brakes, good horn and good luck”

The title of this entry this has been quoted to us by locals and really does sum up driving in India. While we have commented on the challenges of other driving environments, this one has been by far the most difficult for us to ride in with the profusion of vehicles, people and animals to contend with. It requires the most concentration and effort on our part, to be alert to all the challenges. After a long day’s riding, we are both pretty shattered at the last stage which inevitably ends in rush hour town or city traffic to get to our hotel. The casual way drivers almost never look behind them, in traffic or pulling out, brings into play the the first element, “good brakes”. Many vehicles do not have mirrors, or in the case of motorcycles and mopeds they are turned inwards to get through narrower gaps between other vehicles. Whoever is behind has the responsibility to stop in time, like on the ski slope, regardless of the actions of those in front, although I believe that the majority of Hindu gods must work in the Collision Avoidance Division as it seems to me miraculous that, for all the frenzied weaving and overtaking, we have not witnessed a single accident, seen the results of yes, but not a single collision take place which I find amazing and returns me to my reference to the Collision Avoidance Division as I can find no other logical explanation.

The second phrase ‘good horn’ relates to the usage of your horn to announce both your presence and your intentions. The person or vehicle being hooted at almost never reacts in any way – they seem to take it as an indication that the person hooting has seen them and will take appropriate action to avoid them. Those of you who have seen any Indian traffic videos or been here will know that bus and truck horns, are loud and multi tone and we want them for Streak and Storm! Unfortunately, horns are an overused commodity here and are used without hesitation for, sometimes, no apparent reason, purely because they can, setting the wrong example to the younger generation. We have been informed that those who return from Delhi or Mumbai tend to have suffered a decline in driving standards and ability. It must be said that all the noise is the only manifestation of what we might consider back home as road rage. Drivers are extremely pushy and some are aggressive as they navigate or force their way through traffic, but we have not seen any road rage. Is road rage a cultural thing that does not occur here, because all the elements that would kick it off back home exist all the time on the roads in India.

‘Good luck’ the third phrase of Indian driving and in my mind probably the most important. Without this I am not sure that I would venture onto the road here. It has worked for us and many others and long may it continue for all concerned.

Some observations that we have made while we have been here:

COW > BUS > TRUCK > RICKSHAW > CAR > TUK TUK > MOTORBIKE > PEDESTRIAN > DOG, these are our subjective views based on observations on the importance of road users and as such the priority they are afforded by others. Not sure where elephant fits, but probably towards to front of the list.

Helmets are compulsory and no more than two people allowed on a motorbike, but this yet has to be fully adopted in Delhi, let alone the rest of the country.

I suspect that most Indians who are killed in road accidents die with surprised looks on their faces if something goes wrong as they appear not to comprehend the danger of some of their actions.

Unlike Iran where some people go the wrong way round the roundabout, here everyone does it.

Dual carriage way means dual driving directions in all lanes.

Green leafed branches stuck in the back of a vehicle, plus a few brick or rocks placed one to two meters behind a vehicle indicate it has broken down. The rocks are left behind when the vehicle departs.

Broken down trucks are left where they stop and not pulled to the side of the road, usually in our experience because one or more rear axles are now parallel to the truck body.

There are absolutely no warnings of roadworks, just vehicles and people working with no protection from traffic.

– Anthony

10 comments on ““Good brakes, good horn and good luck”

  1. Dear Anthony. Is this any way for a SIXTY PLUS YEAR OLD to behave. You’re not meant to be gallivanting around the world, think of your hips !
    You’ve shattered any ideas people might have of slowing down gracefully. Did nobody point you in the direction of a comfy chair, pipe and slippers.
    I hope you have a HAPPY BIRTHDAY anyway.
    Throttle on my OLD friend.

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  2. Driving sounds very similar to road conditions in China where all drivers look forward never behind or to the side. Vehicles, rickshaws, tuk tuks, bikes…mostly overloaded some with whole families on bikes will come at you from all directions. No lights at night. Pedestrians take their lives into their own hands….trying to cross 6 lanes of traffic when nobody stops is a feat in itself. Basically attach yourself to a Chinese group of people and walk across without stopping in the hope that everyone swerves round you and work on the principle that they will be in deep trouble if they hit a Westerner!!! Safe travels XX

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  3. Given the anarchy that reigns on the roads, I find it astonishing that you have been able to cross India with no major incident – that is if one discounts the bad fall in Benares (I forget B’s new name) and Streak’s injuries necessitating Super Glue. Let’s hope conditions will be less stressful from now on. xx

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  4. Love the Avoidance Collision Division reference and the hierarchy of things to avoid – it describes the situations I saw on the videos really well. Kudos to you both for getting the driving code right to ensure your own safety! xx

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