Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Driving in India Can Seriously Damage Your Health

The British government's attempts to bring the road accident rate down to zero can only work if they achieve what I believe they are trying to achieve ... by taxing every form of travel to the hilt. That way they can ensure that we all stay in one place so that the politicians and the thought police know where to find each and every one of us. I firmly believe that the latest form of control from the Labour party is trying to restrict our movements. How long will it be before we are banned from going abroad? With this in mind spare a thought for the Sub Continent where l something like 93,000 people die on the roads every year.

By comparison the accident rate in most European countries can be seen as fairly minor and in Britain I think we have one of the best standards of driving in the world although at times it might not seem like it. But India is something else. Take a taxi ride, even in one of the more laid back states such and Goa or Kerala, and you will be in for a roller coaster ride that leaves you begging to get out of the car. Don't get me wrong; Indian drivers are good, but they are just downright dangerous. By "good" I am referring to the way that they can fit their cars into the tightest of gaps to avoid a collision at the very last second when carnage is about to ensue. Indian drivers cannot accept that orderly driving, one vehicle behind the other, should be the acceptable norm. For this reason every vehicle in front has to be overtaken and this is achieved regardless of what is coming at you in the opposite direction. It is a truly frightening experience but you will not find any tour operators with India on their agendas advising you not to take their transport from the airport! So, dear traveller, if you intend to visit anywhere on the Sub Continent you should be prepared to risk your life when going on the roads.

The buses and truck drivers are the worst especially those that drive the interstate buses for ten or more hours at a stretch non-stop. The Bombay to Goa bus for example sits in the middle of the road and will move for nobody. Argue with it at your peril but the local drivers will and when their luck is out they leave a trail of death and destruction. It seems there is no penalty for killing somebody by dangerous driving in India and life being generally cheap means that nobody seems to care. It is not uncommon for half a dozen people to be killed in a single accident yet even this does not deter the Indian from behaving like a suicide jockey.

I was recently told that the State government in Goa had recently introduced a law to force motor cyclists to wear crash helmets but only on major roads. The rule seemingly does not apply to their passengers (yes, plural because I have seen an entire family of four on a single moped). They recently had a purge but it made little difference if the rider was wearing a helmet because the police officer that stopped him would insist he was breaking the law. A hundred or so rupees however is usually all it takes to guarantee that the officer doesn't write a ticket.

Driving is all a bit of a game really in India; sometimes you win, often you lose. It is certainly not a pastime to be enjoyed by the feint hearted.

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