Editor’s note: Dear Mom and Dad, the kids are ok. Everything I learned here happened a long time ago, so no need to worry.
This is one of those articles you don’t read until it’s too late.
Driving in India is dangerous. More road fatalities occurred in India in 2013 than in Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, the US, Russia, and Pakistan combined. (Those countries ranked numbers 3-8 respectively. China was #1.)
However, based on the rules of driving in India, you might actually be surprised at how few accidents you get in. I drove in India for several years before I had my first official accident. Here is what you need to know.
If you are not driving…
Do nothing. Just sit back and let your driver/friend take care of everything. If you are driving, but have an Indian friend with you, let them take care of everything.
If you are driving yourself without a friend…
Bumping someone from behind, touching side mirrors, and scratching a door do not constitute an accident. The offending party is free to pull away as fast as possible and never be seen again.
Major Accidents Without Bodily Injury
If there is some serious bodywork damage, your first priority is to get a nearby police officer. Try calling 100 from your mobile. Or 102. Or 112. (This number differs from region to region.)
The thing you really want to avoid is a large crowd gathering without a police officer nearby. If you notice a lot of people starting to congregate and you don’t have any support, get the license plate number of the other car and tell the driver that you are going to the nearest police station. The person who reaches first has a distinct advantage in how the report is drawn up.
If you are feeling really unwise, you are free to engage in the social ritual of shouting at each other and trying to blame the other person for being a useless driver. Neither party will accept blame regardless of how obvious the situation is.
After shouting, get the license plate number along with make and model and go to the nearest police station.
Accidents with Bodily Injury
If you think an ambulance is needed, dial 102 or 108. If you can’t get through, ask someone nearby to find a police officer.
Assuming you are not the one injured, get the license plate number and make and model of the car. Go as quickly as possible to the police station. A crowd will quickly form and you will be powerless against it. You can make amends with the injured person later, but the scene of the accident is not the right place, especially for a foreigner.
At the Police Station
In most situations, you have two options.
The first is if you want the other driver to pay for the full damages and be punished for his act. This involves filling out an FIR, having the police arrest the driver, conducting break checks on both vehicles, hiring a lawyer, fixing your vehicle at your own cost while you wait for a verdict, starting an official case with the court system, consulting astrologers, and allowing a parrot to choose the guilty party.
The other option is to have the police write up a certificate that validates your story and allows you to submit a claim to your insurance. Most people choose this option. The downside is that your insurance probably will only pay 75% of any claim, and the other driver will never be held accountable for any damages.
If there are significant personal injuries, be prepared for any situation, but be sure to consult a lawyer before making any agreement.
Hopefully you won’t need this advice, but anything can happen in India. As they say, driving in the US is on the right side; driving in the UK is on the left side; driving in India is suicide.
PS – Many road accidents can be settled easily with a simple exchange of money. If you are at fault (or if you just don’t want to deal with the headache), offering a reasonable amount of money is an easy way to be done with the situation.
Image Credit: Biswarup Ganguly on Wikimedia Commons