Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Driving in Chennai (after 6 months)

That traffic cop is manually changing the light.
It's probably time for a review of my experiences driving in India. As terrifying as it was to begin... it quickly became second nature. In fact, in some ways, it's more pleasant than driving in the US. I mean, you have to laugh at randomly getting cut off or pedestrians risking their lives to let you test your brakes. However, there is something to be said for driving in a place where every driver is paying attention. In the US, we expect traffic rules and conventions to be followed to the letter, when they're not, we're often so zoned out that we crash before noticing the change. In Chennai, traffic and road conditions are a constantly changing thing that demands your attention the entire time. I just recently saw a man fixing a pot hole in the middle of the biggest intersection of the city, with traffic passing him in both direction, and I had little doubt that no one would hit him. Driving here isn't very hard, because the other people on the road are very forgiving of any mistakes you might make: Accidentally merge into someone? They're expecting it! Not sure if your unpowered light means it's red or green? If no one's coming, just go! The only exeptions to the forgiving traffic are the busses. Busses in Chennai would never get anywhere if they drove politely... so instead they just ignore all traffic that isn't the car in front of them. They will merge into you and run you off the road because, hey, THEY'RE A BUS. What, did you not see them!? 

Driving in India is much like downhill skiing in that you rarely have to consider the people behind you. Unless they honk... that's the common way of saying, "I'm here! Please don't hit me while I pass you!" The first time I was driven to work (months and months ago) and the driver forgot to unfold the sideview mirrors, I thought it was hilarious... now I know, you just don't have to worry about cars behind you, that's their job.

I have a feeling I'm going to miss the semi-lawless driving here, when I leave and am forced to regularly obey ALL traffic laws. On that note, I'll leave you with an AMAZING ARTICLE on the unwritten rules of driving in India and a couple of "pro-tips." 

Pro Tip #1: In India you drive on the left... Unless you're driving in the wrong lane of a divided road... Then the best practice is to drive on (your) right. Now it makes sense why all the locals told me to "just stay to the right (of the left side of the road) and you'll be fine." There are fewer people driving in the wrong direction or boldly just pulling out whenever the heck they feel like it when you bear right. 
Pro Tip #2: If someone flashes their high beams at you here it means, "I'm going for it! You better get out of my way." I definitely pissed off a few people before I learned THIS.

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