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Driving in India

Most Indian road users observe a version of the Highway Code based on an ancient 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.


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): 1.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 recognize", "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."

•Series of short blasts means "I am rounding a blind bend or intersection, am busy talking to the people sitting behind me, and I hope you hear my blast because I'm coming through."

2.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 emphasized by the use of headlamps (insouciant).

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, 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.


With regard to equipping vehicles,

All vehicles must be decorated in all colors to indicate the driver's political parties, religious beliefs, or preferences for art and culture. Pictures of dieties must be easily identifiable on the front dash. Registration plates are optional. Cattle must be painted at all times, with the left horn being of one color and the right horn of another. Bicycles must be designed to transport a minimum of family of four, including parcels.


Reversing: no longer applicable since no vehicle in India has reverse gear.


With regard to traffic signals, Green means to proceed without caution, Amber means to proceed faster, and Red means proceed as long as the people around you are proceeding, and to maintaining a steady flow of traffic through the intersection until the light turns green again. Whistles and hand signals from traffic officials means to proceed without abandon as long as everyone else is doing the same, and as long as the traffic officials are on foot and cannot catch you.