The unsaid rules of the road


Despite what the South Africans (and other expats from developed countries) might have to say about the roads here, I find driving in SA an absolute pleasure. The motorways are actually straight ( you will understand why I say this if you have ever been on indian roads), free of pot holes and you only see vehicles on them as opposed to humans and cattle (remember in India roads are shared equally by ALL – read cows, dogs, goats and their likes). Even the small rural roads are better marked and laid out than most national highways in India.

Moving on from Indian road bashing – I could continue for several posts – road trips in SA have become a norm for us because they are relatively stress free, give us the flexibility to leave when we like and stop where we want and its the best way to explore the country.

But the thing that leaves me in awe is that most motorists follow a code of conduct on the highway (I say most as there are always some obnoxious drivers that you tend to come across). I mean people are actually polite and courteous and follow rules! A major culture shock for an Indian especially one that has driven in Delhi for the most part!

Below are some things that make me wish more Indians would visit/live in SA and imbibe some of the road etiquette. After all, both countries are very similar. So if they can do it here, why cant we in India?

1) South Africans use indicators. These are small lights fitted on each side of the car, in the front and back, and when turned on (yes that actually work and are NOT for show), they blink to ‘indicate’ to the other drivers whether you are turning right or left.

2) Lane driving is a reality. The white lines that have been painstakingly drawn on the roads are not there to make roads look pretty. Believe it or not, they actually serve a purpose – to help drivers stay in their respective lanes. And when drivers need to change lanes they use the feature mentioned in #1 above.

3) A red traffic light or a ‘robot’ as they are commonly known, means STOP and a STOP sign means just that – stop, look, go. People slowdown at amber and completely stop when red, even if it means standing at the same signal for 15 minutes or getting to work a few minutes late.

4) When traffic lights don’t work, which is a common occurrence here, people just take turns and go one by one. I know, simply unbelievable right? Why should you let someone else go when you could zoom off and shove the others off the road simply because you drive a big car? The system actually works and there are no traffic jams. So maybe we should keep our egos aside and try it atleast once in India.

5) I find this one really cute. If you are on a two-lane highway or a narrow road, and you move onto to the yellow-line on the side in order to let another vehicle pass, they thank you by blinking their hazard lights a few times and you acknowledge by flashing your high beam! I always look on my rear view to see if a car acknowledges my thank you. 100% smile guaranteed.

Driving need not be the nightmare it currently is on Indian roads. If only we make a few amends and obey rules.

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