Lessons I Learned from Traffic in India

The first time I was taken for a drive through Delhi traffic, I thought my face would be set in an imitation of ‘The Scream’! As I stared through the windscreen I could see every sort of vehicle, motorised, people powered and pulled by animals, sharing restricted space with apparently no rules. Horns blasted, white lines were just for decoration and vehicles passed on both sides. Plus, pedestrians took any opportunity to move among the traffic offering water, flowers, sun shades or bottles of water.

Motorway traffic in India
Motorway traffic in India

After a scary 30 minutes my lovely driver turned to me and said, ‘At least the traffic isn’t bad this afternoon’. She burst into laughter when she saw the look of horror on my face.

Two days later I set off in a taxi with three other women to drive from Delhi to the foothills of the Himalayas. Estimates of the time it would take to drive the 300kms ranged from six hours to eight hours. In the end it was ten hours!

The outside temperature was in the high 40’s. The traffic was everything I had seen in Delhi and more. Vehicles used the three marked lanes plus the hard shoulder and the dirt track next to the hard shoulder…and sometimes the ditch next to that. Dust billowed out in thick clouds. The cacophony of car horns was constant and the whole thing appeared to be anarchy. Dilapidated lorries broke down in the outside lane and became temporary chicanes. Enterprising locals used traffic queues to sell hot corn on the cob, dripping with melted butter, to drivers and passengers.

But gradually patterns and order started to appear out of the chaos. I began to understand the car horn messages. They weren’t aggressive sounds that we expect in the UK. Some meant ‘I’m here’, or ‘I’m coming through’, others meant ‘Watch out’ or ‘I’ve seen you’. I could see the cooperation that was going on. The drivers were making the best of the limited space. They were making room for each other. Nobody was left out in a dangerous space. I didn’t see a single accident during that lengthy journey. Traffic 2

After a week of being driven around northern India I started to relax – well at least a bit. I was impressed by the attitude of drivers to each other’s safety. The lack of aggression was obvious. Drivers using the M25 around London could learn a lot from it.

Many clients come to see me for help with driving fears. The fears range from driving test nerves to phobias connected with driving on motorways. Some of the lessons I learned from driving in India were stay calm, make space for people, forgive other drivers and take your time to get to your destination.  Traffic 1

If you need help with any driving phobias contact me to find out how I could help you.