Driving In India

In Just For Fun, Travel by David35 Comments


I first read this a few years ago. It struck me as funny. Then I began travelling in India. Now it’s either hilarious or terrifying, depending on my mood and whether or not I am in a vehicle at the time. I’m putting it here for the amusement of our Lumen Dei team and so I can find it again without a lengthy Google search. Enjoy.

Driving in India
Rules Of The Road, Indian Style

Traveling on Indian Roads is an almost hallucinatory potion of sound, spectacle and experience. It is frequently heart-rending, sometimes hilarious, mostly exhilarating, always unforgettable — and, when you are on the roads, extremely dangerous.
Most Indian road users observe a version of the Highway Code based on a Sanskrit text. These 12 rules of the Indian road are published for the first time in English:

The assumption of immortality is required of all road users.

Indian traffic, like Indian society, is structured on a strict caste system. The following precedence must be accorded at all times. In descending order, give way to:

Cows, elephants, heavy trucks, buses, official cars, camels, light trucks, buffalo, jeeps, ox-carts, private cars, motorcycles, scooters, auto-rickshaws, pigs, pedal rickshaws, goats, bicycles (goods-carrying), handcarts, bicycles (passenger-carrying), dogs, pedestrians.

All wheeled vehicles shall be driven in accordance with the maxim: to slow is to falter, to brake is to fail, to stop is defeat. This is the Indian drivers’ mantra.

Use of horn (also known as the sonic fender or aural amulet):

Cars (IV,1,a-c):
Short blasts (urgent) indicate supremacy, IE in clearing dogs, rickshaws and pedestrians from path.

Long blasts (desperate) denote supplication, IE to oncoming truck: “I am going too fast to stop, so unless you slow down we shall both die”. In extreme cases this may be accompanied by flashing of headlights (frantic).

Single blast (casual) means: “I have seen someone out of India’s 870 million whom I recognise”, “There is a bird in the road (which at this speed could go through my windscreen)” or “I have not blown my horn for several minutes.”

Trucks and buses (IV,2,a):
All horn signals have the same meaning, viz: “I have an all-up weight of approximately 12.5 tons and have no intention of stopping, even if I could.” This signal may be emphasised by the use of headlamps.

Article IV remains subject to the provision of Order of Precedence in Article II above.

All manoeuvres, use of horn and evasive action shall be left until the last possible moment.

In the absence of seat belts (which there is), car occupants shall wear garlands of marigolds. These should be kept fastened at all times.

Rights of way:
Traffic entering a road from the left has priority. So has traffic from the right, and also traffic in the middle.

Lane discipline (VII,1):
All Indian traffic at all times and irrespective of direction of travel shall occupy the centre of the road.

Roundabouts: India has no roundabouts. Apparent traffic islands in the middle of crossroads have no traffic management function. Any other impression should be ignored.

Overtaking is mandatory. Every moving vehicle is required to overtake every other moving vehicle, irrespective of whether it has just overtaken you.

Overtaking should only be undertaken in suitable conditions, such as in the face of oncoming traffic, on blind bends, at junctions and in the middle of villages/city centres. No more than two inches should be allowed between your vehicle and the one you are passing — and one inch in the case of bicycles or pedestrians.

Nirvana may be obtained through the head-on crash.

Reversing: no longer applicable since no vehicle in India has reverse gear.


  1. Pingback: Addison-Wesley-Blog » Blog Archiv » Linktipps: Indien, David duChemin, Fotografie… KW #6

  2. ahhaha! Funny yet most of it true.

    But this is why I love driving in India. The rule I follow is “As long as you don’t get hit, all else is game”.

  3. Outstanding article you have selected. If i say my experience, i was in Mumbai last December & i have enjoyed auto rides but some time i scared, when they go while signal is red. But in UK, driving rules are very strict. You have to pass theory test & hazard perceptions test before you apply for driving test. As new driver i have learnt heaps of things online, which I would like to share link with you http://free-theory-test.addbucket.com. Have safe driving and god bless you.

  4. David I did enjoy your write up and in many ways it may be true too with all the adversities of the Indian road system vs. the population.
    I guess its only when the people who read really understand the satire and take it in the right spirit and humor and not get panicky about it, its all good. And with people I mean the foreigners visiting India. I can understand the point of view of Rishi and Sunny. May be a bit more realistic and unbiased article with the same wit would have been good … “DUDE”

  5. The news that mahindra has taken over kinetic is buzzing all around, they are coming up with these power scooters, all these other scooters like scooty pepp, nova, aviator looks very feminine, these scooters are much more powerful and mature in looks,
    A very bold step by mahindra
    I checked them out on – http://bit.ly/15URxf

  6. @Rishi..”dude”…not everything is an attack on India by Western Imperialists..lighten up and laugh a little:-)

  7. Author

    @ Rishi:

    I: Only I get to say “Dude” around here with a straight face.

    II: I didn’t write the piece, just passing it on.

    III: It’s satire.

    IV: I think practically every other country claims to manage traffic with all the modes of transport and still move on.

    V: You have way too much time on your hands.

  8. Dude, This is all Bullshit!!!
    You don’t understand this wonderful country and how despite all the issues that we have, things still get managed.
    Learn to appreciate things as they are instead of making general fun out of nothing. Many of these things are figment of your imagination or are at least experiences of 20 years or earlier. Can any other country claim to manage traffic with all the modes of transport and still move on??

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  10. well said, I have similar fantastic experiences of riding on indian roads. best thing is that these rules are kind of in our blood..
    The more unexpected things you can do on road the more cool you are!!!

    Every single pothole must be hit head on by at least two tires.

    If the road gets worse, accelerate. (May only apply in MP and UP)

    Always assume that a gap between two immovable objects is wider than your vehicle.

    At least half of the tires on a vehicle shall be bald.

    @Sean: Actually, the rule is that you should only use parking lights when driving at night.

  12. Hilarious. It’s been my experience that the same rules also apply in Laos, though there aren’t quite as many garlands.

  13. But where is the article that states that “All headlights must be used on full beam at all times”? 🙂

  14. I’ve read this before and surprisingly it still holds good for most of the cases (while population has moved from 870mn to 1bn) 🙂
    Hope u r enjoying ur stay otherwise

  15. I don’t know about this being based on Sanskrit or not but I do know that the demographic for pedestrians in many parts of the world appears to be based on the King James Version of 1 Peter 4:5 namely that there are only 2 types of pedestrian – “the Quick and the Dead”

  16. Perfect.

    I once got to drive a Rickshaw in India. Luckily it was on a very quiet road.

  17. Hahahaha..so true.I drive a car in New Delhi..I am one of those few freaks who wears seatbelts,uses wing rearview mirrors and stops at lights…i cant tell you the numbe rof times I have been cussed for driving correctly:-)

  18. Haha, so very true! Once you get used to it, it’s not nearly as frightening, just close your eyes and hang on. Can’t wait to visit there again, one of my favorite places!

  19. Ah, what memories this envokes.

    The taxi driver in Varanasi who was driving me to the airport must have inwardly digested this code – he followed it fastidiously. He told me he bathed every morning in the Ganges and was therfore ready to journey to Nirvanah. Problem was I had tickets to Delhi !

  20. soo true, BUT WHAT A RIDE!!!
    i can’t wait to return, leaving soon for 7 glorious weeks in india.
    i’ll be on the look out for you david, you will stand out in the crowd.. white skin and beard, and camera.
    i will also stand out in the crowd, white skin, NO BEARD, and camera.

  21. LOL… so vehicles come equipped with funeral flowers? Good thing they’re my colour 🙂

  22. most of them are true.. however, i guess u wanna make ur blog active.. thats why u did some funny things in it.. especially ARTICLE VIII – no traffic management function in the middle of the cross roads?? dude, u must be in a village when u were in India, so there was no chance for u to see that, and ARTICLE XI – no vehicle in India has reverse gear?? what the heck… let me take a guess u traveled by a normal bicycle in India right??

    yes u should pay visit to india to see the traffic system, not only for fum, but also to know how the traffic system goes with about 1 billion people.

    Final Word: the only solution to follow the structured traffic system in any country which has the population of about 1 billion is set a rule that “no one should travel, be remain in the same place where u were born”

  23. 1. Eye contact with the driver on the other side is more important than traffic lights

    2. If you see a rickshaw driver getting beat up (because he knocked a scooter down), you can go participate (vent some) and be on your way

  24. It missed the fact that any singular seat in a vehicle must be occupied by no less than
    A: 3 adults
    B: 1 adult and 5 children
    C: as many goats as possible

    or “I have not blown my horn for several minutes.”

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  26. Brilliant.

    The only rule I was told by friends when I was there: when driving, you need to watch for the front two corners of your car. Control the front two corners and watch out for what happens in front of you. Anything that happens behind you is someone else’s problem.

    Good fun, of course…

  27. Still laughing… And finally, I found THE argument for not taking part in this year’s LumenDei Tour ;-D

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