Law of the Jungle: the traffic caste system

When you’re driving in India (or anywhere in Asia) you must remember at all times that the British Highway Code simply does not apply. Indian traffic might look like total chaos at first. But when you observe more closely you begin to realize that there is a different ‘highway code’ in force. It is the law of the jungle: the biggest goes first.

If you’re riding a motorcycle on a main road, and a car wants to pull out of a side road, it will pull out in front of you. Law of the Jungle.

So the ‘lion’ of Indian roads is the truck. When I see a truck coming towards me on a side road in India, I’ll pull my motorcycle over and right off the road. Here’s the heirarchy:

Truck; bus; vehicles with police, army, government officers; expensive cars; large vans (eg Tempo Matador); jeeps; bullock carts; small vans; cars; 3-wheeled commercials and autorickshaws; motorcycles and scooters; cycles; cycle-rickshaws and tricycle carriers; handcarts; pedestrians.

Note that expensive cars are higher in the traffic caste system than other cars. Tourists are considered to be a caste that’s on a par with rich middle-class Indians, so motorcycles ridden by tourists fluctuate in the traffic caste system somewhere around cars and three-wheelers.

But like all protcols in Life, there’s always an ironic variable. In this case it’s the Cow. Everything – even a truck, India’s king of the road – has to drive around a cow…



~ by lovedubs on February 5, 2007.

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