In an article published this past April on the Web site now public: crowd-powered media, John Carrey presents startling facts about China’s roads and the number of people who wreck when navigating them. One statistic he cites is that 45,000 people are hurt every year. India’s traffic accidents are not as numerous as China’s, but the numbers are increasing.
As more and more people get disposable income, I can see how the statistics might get worse before they get better. Sure, curvey roads that hug the side of mountains are horrific (see post) but driving where more and more people have quickly acquired motorbikes, motorcycles and cars because more people can afford them, adds to the mayhem.
The first time we went to Vietnam, Hanoi was a fairly relaxed place for meandering. Taking cyclos was common. This was back in 1994. When we returned in 1998 and again in 2001, motorcycles buzzed everywhere, including the narrow streets of the Old Quarter where people jockeyed for room to walk. Then by December 2003, when we were there again, I noticed how the number of cars had increased. On one hand, this shows that the economy is perhaps looking up. On the other, this is a place where many people didn’t grow up with cars or motorcyles being part of their daily life so there isn’t as much practice with rules of the road. (See description of Vietnam’s transportation situation.)
Likewise, India is also getting more busy with motorized traffic. You can be driving along any road, and then there’s a cow. Once, while going home after a New Delhi outing, my husband grazed the side of one at the outskirts of the city. The cow wasn’t hurt, but after it took out the driver’s side mirror with its backside, my husband did say, “He must have been in a reflective mood.” At night once, we almost drove into an elephant–and that was in the city.
To increase our odds at traveling on roads safely, we’ve tended to hire drivers since a seasoned driver knows what to look for. The one time we decided to forgo the driver for our trip to Bharatupur Bird Sanctuary, a tractor crossed the highway and we hit it. There wasn’t any indication there was an intersection coming up. After that big bang, enough to make the car undrivable, we decided it was better to hire a driver since seasoned drivers tended to know the roads and are much better at predicting where road hazards might appear. Here’s a Web site for a car rental company in India that also has drivers for hire. This is just to give an idea of what is available. Shop around.