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But, What If His Car Is New?

November 4, 2013

Don’t freak out about our driver.

What do you mean?

Well, the driving laws are different here than they are at home in the US. Let’s just say that it’s going to be a bit scarier.

You’ve never been to India either!

True, but driving in most developing countries is the same the world over. So, I want to you to look at our driver’s car. And remember that he drives that car everyday. So, even though it looks like he’s a crazy driver and so is everyone else, if you don’t see a bunch of dents in his car realize he’s probably a pretty good driver.

What if it’s a new car because he wrecked his old one?

Okay, she had a point. My wife and I were in New Delhi, India to adopt my daughter. We had hired a car for the three days we were planning to be in the country. If you’ve ever taken a taxi, or worse yet, driven in a developing country, you already understand that traffic laws are more suggestions than actual laws. I had traveled a lot outside the US on business. Riding with my friend through the Scottish highlands was unnerving, but mostly because he kept driving on the wrong side of the road. (If you ever have the argument with a Brit about which is the right side of the road, ask him to stand in the middle of the street and raise his right hand. THAT is the right side of the road in more ways than one.)

Our travel in India was uneventful, which is to say that we didn’t hit anything. . .no matter how close we came to it. We got our daughter on the first day from the Sisters of Charity orphanage. On the second day we took a trip to Agra to view the Taj Mahal.

(Photo credit:

I’ve seen many beautiful buildings. Mormon Temples are some of the most beautiful. But, the Taj was by far the most beautiful building I’d ever seen.

The road from New Delhi to Agra is a divided highway. While we were fine, we passed a terrible accident involving an overloaded truck, a car and an elephant. The elephant was unhurt, but it appeared at least one of the drivers died. Could that have been us? We tried not to think about it.

My home state of Utah is famous for having terrible drivers. Our freeways will allow you to drive 75 mph, and some of our citizens want to drive 55. I’ve thought a lot about why I sometimes feel more frustrated on the streets of Provo than I did on the streets of New Delhi, or Guangzho China, or Bogota Columbia, or even Chicago, Boston or New York. I think it has to do with expectations.

When I was driving in Chicago where I lived for a couple of years back in the 1980’s, the drivers were extremely aggressive. But, they were ALL aggressive. In other words, you didn’t have to wonder if the driver next to you was going to let you merge nicely, or if you were going to have to force your way in. Of course, you were going to have to force your way in. Everyone did. In Columbia, the drivers all drove the same way. You pretty much knew what to expect.

Provo, UT is the home of Brigham Young University, my alma mater. There are over 30,000 students from all over the world and all over the country. Unlike University of Utah, in Salt Lake, where most of the students come from the local area, BYU, as a private university draws students from all over the US and the world. So, you end up with a vast mix of cultures and driving styles. This wouldn’t be an issue except that BYU has 33,000 students and Provo has about 115,000 residents. So, nearly a quarter of the residents of Provo are from somewhere else. They students pretty much dominate the driving habits in this case.

Harvard draws a diverse population, but the enrollment of Harvard is dwarfed by the population of Boston. The same thing goes for most universities in large cities. In other places, the drivers simply adopt the driving style of the location. I discovered this when I travelled to Athens, Greece. The taxi driver who took me from the airport to my hotel told me that his goal was to move the United States and become a race car driver. After a week in Athens, I observed it was the goal of EVERY taxi driver to move to the US and be a race car driver.

So, when you travel to another location where they drive crazy, and the cars don’t have seatbelts, and entire families share a single motorcycle. Just look at the car, and don’t get into a taxi with a bunch of dents. . .and avoid the brand new ones too. . .just in case!

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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