Rules of the Road
Though it doesn’t always seem obvious, there are driving rules in India, many of which appear to be more suggestions than enforced by the large presence of traffic police in Bangalore. Traffic police are generally posted at most busy intersections, and can be identified by their white and khaki uniform and white ‘cowboy’ hat. Criminal police wear full khaki.
A few rules of the road to note, though not all necessarily official instructions:
- In India, everyone drives on the left side of the road. Overtaking should be done on the right side.
- Give way to the larger vehicle. Buses, trucks and SUVs generally rule the road.
- Drunk driving is strictly prohibited (0.03 percent alcohol in your blood), and many roadblocks are set up at night to check. Breathalyzers are done by smell or machine.
- Third party insurance is mandatory. Always keep the insurance policy and your driving permits with you when you’re driving. Most cars often come out of the showroom with an insurance policy arranged by the dealer. Make sure it (or a photocopy) is always in the glove compartment of your car.
- Use of seat belt is mandatory and it is an offence to drive while talking on a mobile phone (though rarely enforced).
- The driver of a two-wheeler is required to wear a helmet. This is strictly enforced. That said, there is no enforced limit on how many passengers can ride on a two-wheeler (without helmet), and you’ll often see whole families traversing the city.
- Traffic lights are generally adhered to, unless little traffic is around. Be sure to always reduce speed and proceed with caution through an intersection (even if a green light), particularly at night or when there’s little traffic on the roads.
- Driving the wrong way down a one-way street is prohibited, though often done. Be prepared for on-coming traffic.
- U-turns can be, and are, done anywhere where there is no sign stating otherwise.
- Parking in Bangalore can be quite haphazard, with parking allowed virtually anywhere in residential areas, and strictly enforced in the busier commercial districts (vehicles parked in ‘no parking’ zones will be towed or wheel-clamped). There are designated pay-parking zones in most business and shopping districts, manned by parking attendants who issue tickets as you leave, but these can often be full, especially in the evenings. Your best bet is to park inside the office building/store that you are visiting (most larger stores and office towers have visitor parking in the basement).
Visit Bangalore’s Transport Department’s website for road safety tips, as well as a complete list, with images, of traffic signs and signals (see Signs & Questionnaires): http://rto.kar.nic.in/. You can also visit Indian Driving Schools’ website for a basic introduction to Indian road signs: http://www.indiandrivingschools.com/road-traffic-signs-signals.html
The Bangalore Transport Information System’s website is also a great resource for up-to-date information on traffic, buses and carpooling: http://www.btis.in
It’s also a good idea to join the Automobile Association of Southern India, which is affiliated with Geneva-based AIT (Alliance Internationale De Tourisme), for various road services, including driving handbook, breakdown services and accident assistance. http://www.aasindia.in
What to do in case of an accident
It is common for bystanders to be afraid to offer assistance when an accident occurs, so do not always expect roadside assistance if you have a minor accident. That said, there is also often help at hand from the public in the case of more serious accidents. There is not a lot of training or awareness of what to do, though, and often people who have been in accident are taken by passers-by to the nearest hospital.
Depending on the time and location of the accident, police may be nearby and reach the scene of the accident. You may call 100 (the police emergency number) to report the accident.
Should an accident happen, even if it is minor, you should pull off to the side of the road and exchange information with the other driver, including name, address, phone number, insurance company, policy number, driver license number and license plate number. If there are other witnesses, ask for their contact information, in case they need to help you clarify what happened. If you are concerned about your safety but able to drive (particularly after dark, or for women), it is best to drive to the nearest police station immediately without stopping to exchange contact information.
If you have a camera on your cell phone or in your car, use it to photograph and document the accident. Your insurance agency or car dealer might want to document the scene of accident. Include the overall context of the accident, meaning where it happened, what landmarks were around the accident, what occurred, etc.
File a police report (call Police emergency: 100, 22942595, 22211777, 22942111, 22942777 or call police Accidents HELP LINE 103 to give vehicle details) and then file an FIR (First Information Report) with the local police. http://www.bangalore-karnataka.com/emergency/police.htm