I’ve been reluctant to look up traffic statistics for Tamilnadu. I find the traffic absolutely terrifying and am totally amazed that people aren’t running into each other constantly. Vehicles, pedestrians and animals are coming fast in all directions with very little traffic control. In the big city there are a few traffic lights, but almost no stop signs and no control of side traffic- vehicles must just nose into the flow of traffic from the side and find their way into the flow without getting crushed.
Scooters are ridden by whole families, including babies and small children. If there’s a helmet, it’s only worn by the driver. Women ride pillion sitting sideways. Meanwhile pedestrians are on their own – there are few pedestrian signs and they are totally ignored, so pedestrians do the same thing: enter into the traffic, hold up your hand if needed, and then just go.
Somehow it seems to work- I haven’t seen an accident yet. People do yield when necessary, but only when necessary. And everyone looks so relaxed! In the US, every driver would be in jail or at least have a string of traffic tickets.
What are the statistics? I finally looked, and it’s bad! India has the HIGHEST percentage of traffic deaths for its population in the WORLD. And Tamilnadu ranks THIRD among Indian states for traffic deaths. Many claim that this is the result of easy access to alcohol, lack of police enforcement, and rapid growth of vehicles on the road without sufficient road space. Today’s paper says that Chennai saw 7,580 accidents in 2018, with almost all those accidents involving injuries. There were 1,260 deaths. Of those, 41% were riding scooters and 17% were pedestrians.
The state saw 12,216 people die in road accidents. Of these, 60% were in rural areas. This is likely because people can drive a lot faster in rural areas, and many buses and lorries travel long distances at night on unlit, high speed roads. In urban areas, the traffic is just too congested to allow for high speeds.
So… this does not help me feel safer! However, I continue to be amazed at how the traffic flows in spite of the chaos. How does it work? And I continue to be mostly scared in the back of an auto rickshaw, careening through the wild traffic, inhaling all sorts of pollution and dust and smells. WhEEEEE!!!!