First of all, WE are not driving (thankfully)! We are fortunate to have a calm, careful and cheerful man named Pradeep Singh at the wheel of the car.*
The first day we were driven around Delhi we remarked on the frequent and fervent honking going on. We were told that there are 3 essentials needed to drive in India:
GOOD HORN, GOOD BRAKES and GOOD LUCK (and in our case a good driver).
Hearing this admittedly made me a little nervous about the 3 week driving tour we had signed up for but we carried on, assured with the knowledge that we were about to embark on a popular tourist route.
Having been on the road for a week now, I have made a few observations that might give you a flavour of driving here in India. In particular, I have noted a number of hazards on the road that seem a little more dangerous than what we usually encounter at home:
1. Animals - dogs, pigs, goats, chickens, sheep, donkeys, horses, camels, buffalo and of course the ever present COW. None of these animals are kept safely out of the way behind fences or on leashes or tethers but stroll, no, saunter may describe it better, beside, across or in the middle of the road. This ever present hazard is as equally apparent on the city streets as the cross-country highways.
It's even worse at night as there are apparently dangerous cows and deer that also cross the highways. I guess this isn't very different than moose in Canada or kangaroos in Australia.
2. Potholes and speed bumps- some are bigger than others but you'd better be prepared to slow down for both (and I mean slow WAY DOWN).
3. Detours- Unlike the detours found at home, these alternate routes may or may not be marked by signs and would definitely not have a lollipop (as they call the highway traffic controllers in Australia), to direct traffic.
One particularly frightening construction detour took us into a double lane of traffic (small graces) going in the opposite direction. The cars coming towards us however, did not appear to be aware of this traffic adjustment. Pradeep eventually put on the hazards and thankfully spotted a small bypass back to the other side of the highway - of course there were no signs to let him know how or when to return to the other side.
3. Other vehicles- cars, trucks, motorcycles, tuktuks, tractors, bicycles and carts pulled by camels, donkeys or cows. And, once again, these are all found on city streets as well as larger highways.
4. 2 lane highways - this last one may not be a problem for people who enjoy changing lanes frequently and are good at darting in and out of traffic (Rick), but it freaks me out!!!
It's particularly scary when there's a truck coming towards you in your lane while your driver is just passing a motorcycle that you're amazed you haven't struck or pushed off the road already. At this point you are trying really hard not to offend the driver by flinching or throwing your arms up to cover your eyes and possibly shield yourself from the blow of the on-coming truck. Finally, just before completely loosing all composure and after a polite honk and a slightly more urgent flick of the lights by your driver, the truck swerves back into it's own lane and you take a much needed breath,...... only to await the next near death experience. I HATE SITTING IN THE FRONT!!!
*Mr. Singh really is a good driver and should he ever read this post, should not take any offense to my remarks. He is doing a fantastic job of keeping us safe and avoiding all of the hazards in his path!*