- Obey traffic lights
- Honk your horn when about to pass, when passing, and when otherwise in the mood
- The lines marking off the lanes are for decoration only, even if they indicate a separation of traffic moving in opposite directions
- Yield to anything bigger than you are
Traffic routinely expands into lanes normally for the use of oncoming traffic when those lanes are otherwise unoccupied.
I learned how to drive on the streets of New York City and on the freeways of New Jersey, I've driven in Boston and Washington D.C., and thought I knew how to drive...until I got to Bangalore. Those people treat every trip as if it were a stock car race. If cruise control were available on the vehicles there, I doubt they would sell a single unit.
Automatic transmission, air conditioning, and even radios were considered to be very advanced features. Things such as power windows were almost unheard of. Until fairly recently the manufacturing of automobiles was heavily regulated by the government, and there were only two or three brands. The vast majority of the cars I saw there were comparable to American cars from the 1940's and 1950's, but designed and manufactured in India. The Hindistan Motors' Ambassador is typical of this type. A relatively new brand on the scene is a venture of Suzuki known as Maruti. They offer far more modern-looking cars starting at only $6,000. That's about half the cost of the least expensive car in America. I saw some imports on the roads, but not many. Almost all were Mercedes. I hear that some 50 models of car, including Ford Escorts, are now available in India, so the automotive scene has changed significantly since I was there. However, the traffic has only gotten worse. One improvement is that the recent videos (below) don't show bullock carts and goats on the roads, whereas they were not unusual when I was there.
Safety is not a primary concern. No vehicles have seat belts (or emissions controls). Most vehicles could never pass inspection in the US for any of dozens of reasons. While an auto rickshaw can comfortably carry three people, they often carry more. I once saw a family of eight people and a small goat getting out of one! Entire families often ride on one motor scooter, with only the husband having a helmet. Buses often run with people hanging out of the doors or merely holding onto the exterior. After dark, driving with headlights off is not at all unusual.
One must be careful not to make judgments about another culture, especially one that has a written history starting over 1,500 years before North America was even discovered. I feel that my perspective on many things was substantially broadened and altered by my visit to India. It is hard to put into words what a profound effect being so immersed in a culture so different from my own has had on me. I treasure my visit to India, and look forward to bringing my wife and our daughter Surya back to visit there once being an American overseas isn't quite as dangerous as it is while Bush/Cheney are running our government.