August 07, 2008
As Indian students prepare to leave for international universities, all kinds of questions arise regarding the nitty-gritty details of life abroad.
To ease their concerns and answer their queries, we asked students who are already abroad to share their experiences. Here a student of Texas A&M, Stephen James shares his advice on basic traffic rules you should be aware of when you land in the US.
The signal light's barely turned green before the entire two-mile... I'm sorry, two-kilometre long block of traffic starts honking their horns, edging their way through the smallest available space, hurling abuses at the person who just won't take off, and what not. Aah... a typical traffic scene in the heart of Old Delhi [Images]. In the best interest, what honks in Old Delhi had better stay in Old Delhi.
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That attitude in the US of A might land you with a "certificate of traffic excellence" aka traffic violation ticket. An added bonus might be a night counting steel bars. Knowing traffic rules is important in this country and it doesn't apply only to drivers; it equally affects pedestrians too. Here are some of the top 10 things to keep in mind about traffic in the USA.
Obey all traffic and pedestrian rules. And that does not mean slipping $100 when you get caught. For two reasons: One, traffic rules are taken very seriously here and you can never bribe a police officer. You might land yourself in hot water for attempting to do so. Two, even for some confounded luck you do get away with it, then good luck to you on paying your tuition fee with all the 100s you're giving away! No J-walking! And that means don't cross the road wherever you want to as though it's a piece of ancestral property. You can get a ticket for that. There are designated zebra crossings where you should cross. Now how does that work for us? We Indians like to cross the roads wherever we want to, "we are like that only" right? To be honest, many of us do that but you better be careful. Just remember that if caught, there's a law and it won't be on your side. There are signals for vehicles and pedestrians. If you are on foot and want to cross a signal, wait on the sidewalk for the pedestrian lights to turn green. Although pedestrians have the right of way, that's not something you want to argue about. Red light jumpers are quite frequent, so look in both directions and be careful while crossing. Waiting for 10 seconds can save you 10 months in a hospital. Walk on the left side of the road if there are no sidewalks. Step onto the pavement when a car approaches. If you cross a street at any point other than within a crosswalk at an intersection, you must yield the right-of-way to all vehicles. Also when crossing at a crosswalk, keep right. No person may stand in the roadway for the purpose of soliciting a ride, contributions or business. So if you are looking to get rid of your 1996 Toyota Corolla, don't hand out flyers at traffic lights. Get in and out of cars on the curb side of the road. Why end up driving around with a three- or, even worse, two-door car? When using public transportation, stand at designated pick-up points and maintain the queue. Usually, you board a bus from the front door and exit from the back door. Use the bell in the bus to let the driver know that your stop is coming up. This is for the party animals among us. If you drink, go ahead. Honestly nobody cares. But never ever drive while you are drunk. A DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) ticket can lead to deportation. Even if it doesn't go till there, it will still be a permanent black mark in your driving record. Believe me, insurance companies neither find that amusing or a mark of your bravery. If you will be drinking, have a designated driver in your group -- that's someone who won't be drinking and will be responsible for driving you home. If none of your friends can "help" you in that way, take a taxi home. The $10 fare is far more worthwhile than the trouble you might put yourself in. Equally applicable to pedestrians -- don't drink and walk around on the roads. If your girlfriend dumped you, don't take it out on unassuming motorists. Many such 'Devdases' have become traffic victims.
The traffic rules apply equally to all bikers too. And by biker, I mean bicyclist. A bicycle is called a bike here, and a bike is called a motorbike. Stop signs, red lights, use of lanes, etc...they all apply to bikers too. Probably the most important thing is to use reflectors on the rear and lamp on the front when you drive at night. You can get away for not using a lamp, but you must definitely have reflectors. You can get a ticket for not using those.
Also read: Study Abroad: 10 tips to packing smart | The Study Abroad home page
Stephen James is a graduate student, class of 2008, from Texas A&M University, USA.
Have you studied abroad? Do you have advice for students heading abroad? Helpful tips on how to tackle the visa interview or applications process? Did you encounter unexpected roadblocks when you applied to a foreign university but managed to overcome them? Are there paperwork issues that students should know about but don't? Write in to firstname.lastname@example.org with your advice and we'll publish your tips right here on rediff.com.