There are two things that really annoy me. The sequel to Starship Troopers and people that drive in the right-hand lane. “Keep left unless overtaking”. What is so hard to understand?? There is nothing more annoying than cruising along in the right lane going past traffic when you come up behind someone doing 10kph under the speed limit. I have to grit my teeth and resist the urge to beep or flash my lights at them. Despite this, after riding on the roads of India, I have decided that we are pretty civilised in Australia.
There does not appear to be any road rules in India. The ‘highway’ has no line markings and it is a free-for-all as everybody does as they please. Everybody drives at different speeds. You can overtake whenever you like; even if it is on a blind corner around a semi-trailer in a bus full of kids. It is okay if you need to drive on the wrong side of the road into oncoming traffic for a short period if you have to. Nobody indicates to turn. Nobody indicates to change lanes. Nobody looks when they pull into an intersection. BUT... EVERYBODY BEEPS THEIR HORN ALL THE TIME.
Now don’t get me wrong. This is not in a pissed off, get out of my way you idiot, Australian kind of way. You don’t hear the extended 3 second horn with associated verbal abuse. Instead, the horn is used short and sharp and repetitively as more of a warning to let people know you are coming. They beep when they enter an intersection. They beep when they overtake. They beep when they are being overtaken. They beep as they approach behind you. They beep as the approach in front of you.
It seems that most of the traffic problems could be solved with a couple of simple rules such as indicate if you are turning or changing lanes and giveway to your right. But alas, using the horn seems to be the only rule and is in fact, encouraged. Written on the back of every truck are the words ‘HORN OK PLEASE’, suggesting that you beep your horn as you approach and overtake. Intersections are absolute chaos as every vehicle beeps their horn and drives blindly into the crossroads from every direction.
What is the result of this chaos??? Well, the speed almost never goes over 40kph, even on the highway. Vehicles must come to almost a complete stop at every intersection and you must expect a car to come toward you on the wrong side of the road beeping their horn. I have a story to give you some perspective...
After arriving in India for the Tour of Mumbai, we had a 4.5hr bus ride to Nashik, to the North- East. We left the Mumbai airport at 2am, so I was told that this meant that traffic was much less than during the day. During the 4.5hr trip, I fell in and out of sleep, but was awake to witness the attempted overtaking of a truck. The bus driver beeped his horn accordingly and pulled around the truck. The truck did not realise and also moved over. Consequently, the truck’s mirror scraped down the entire length of the bus as we went past!
At 6.30am I woke again as we pulled into the Race Hotel and assumed we were hundreds of kilometres from Mumbai. I looked back down the highway and saw a sign. It read... ‘MUMBAI 170km’. So in 4.5hrs, in ‘good traffic’, we managed to travel 170km!!!