Saturday, January 5, 2013


Before I left for India, I was given the statistic that India has the highest rate of automobile accidents, and of those accidents, they also boast the highest mortality rate. I now know why. This was not my first taxi ride in India; in fact, during my first trip to India I had the pleasure of being a passenger in a taxi that was involved in a three-car pile-up accident. Thankfully no one was hurt.
First signs of my new "home"
There was something different about this taxi ride. Maybe I just had a different perspective this time. Maybe it was because I actually noticed all their road signs and the irony therein. Maybe I was numb from initial culture shock and fatigue. I’m not sure what it was, but this time around it was strangely enjoyable.

Signage: First let me comment on the road signs. Every mile or so a sign would pop up reminding driver’s to be careful. They read things like “Speeding thrills, but it also kills.” “Safety is a cheaper and effective insurance.” “Your safety is our concern.” “Follow safe driving techniques.”  “Road Safety Week: Donate blood, just not on the road.” And my personal favorite, “Everything comes your way, if you are in the wrong lane.”  I do not know what purpose these signs serve. No one seems to heed them.

Chennai road signage
Signage en route to Vellore
Good example of lane usage
Lane usage: I do believe the white dotted line painted down the center of the street is merely suggestion. Any line painted on the street, for that matter, seems to be suggestion only. On a number of occasions I found myself doing a silent running commentary on the driving. It went something like this, “Yes, lay on that horn, that will teach those cows to get back in their lane, and until then, why don’t you just go ahead and pass this mammoth trunk with that little auto rickshaw right beside you while that bus is coming straight at us. Oh perfect! Here we go. That is exactly what you did! Wonderful. Why don’t you let me roll down my window and shake that rickshaw driver’s hand for a well-executed tandem pass on a busy two-lane road? After all, he is close enough for me to shake his hand. Heck, I could probably pat him on the back too!” All this commentary merely served to amuse me—only twice did I ever tense up in the whole two and a half hour drive.

Spatial awareness: I have decided that people who use the street, not just drivers, must have either incredible spatial awareness of their own physical being and the object they are commanding, or impeccable timing. Most likely both. The rate at which we zigged and zagged in and out of traffic was alarming, yet seemingly orchestrated to perfection. I was quite amazed, actually. I was confident in my driver’s abilities to deftly maneuver his little car around. There were two occasions that would classify as near-misses, even by Indian standards. After the first incident (a vehicle turned across traffic directly in front of us), my driver calmly quipped in his very strong accent, “India driving- a little bit of a problem.” Ummm… ya don’t say?

On the way to Chennai
Needless to say, I am here. Safe and nearly sound. 


  1. So glad you arrived safely!! What an adventure! i think prayers are needed!!

  2. Emily! Just reading this after coming home from my time with Bill and Charlotte. I can totally relate to this post...the driving was a huge culture shock for me. The lines are definitely a mere suggestion!