I have seen countless accidents in India while driving from A to B. It is an unfortunate sight that I hope no one has to ever deal with. Below are some tips from my experience driving 1000’s of miles all over India.
1) Seat belts don’t exist!
Okay, sometimes they exist, but almost always they are tucked behind the seat so that you can’t use them. If you find that they do exist, it is possible to get your driver to make them usable for you but he will do so begrudgingly. Somehow it seems that Indians don’t believe seat belts are necessary on the roads in India. This is both laughable and frightening because India has double the road deaths than the US and quadruple Australia. I highly recommend you try to wear a seat belt because they simply save lives.
2) Head on near misses are rampart
First timers to India are often shocked by how close your taxi comes to hitting a huge truck head on. The taxis like to weave around the slow moving auto rickshaws and trucks but this means they have to go on the wrong side of the road. After a while you get used to this insanity. If it’s too much for you don’t watch or close your eyes. Also this is why I recommend traveling on planes or trains for longer journeys where ever possible because it really cuts down the stress levels and overall comfort.
3) Cows on the road
In India cows are considered holy animals. It seems that the cows are aware of this fact and so they happily sit in the middle of the road forcing vehicles to drive around them. This can be alarming at times because around a blind corner you can stumble upon a gigantic bull without warning. Often no amount of beeping the horn will get then to move which is quite incredible really.
4) Leave the scene if you’re in an accident
As difficult this may be, if your driver is in an accident, leave the scene as fast as possible. If you’ve read Shantaram (a great read) which is based Mumbai, you’ll remember the scene where the cab driver rear-ends a car which causes a pile-up of cars. Prabaker screams to Lin to get away from the car as quick as possible. Just as they get away, the other drivers mob the cab driver and beat him to a pulp carrying him away to the police. I’m not trying to scare you from going to India, but as always, it is important to have your wits about yourself, choose a good driver, and be careful.
5) Don’t attempt to drive yourself
As tempting as it might be for some daredevils, I advise you to never drive in India yourself. The road rules and ways of the land are so different than the west that it is a recipe for disaster.
6) Photography from the car
I have taken some of my best photos from the car while driving in India. I think it is because I get to see scenes that I may never see otherwise and the people often don’t know I am taking the photograph so they are natural. The tricky part of it is that the moving car means that it is difficult to focus and get the right exposure. Here are a couple of photos I took from a moving car.