The rules of the road in Sri Lanka are interesting. I am, of course, assuming there are rules –they just seem to be followed very loosely. The direction of travel is more or less adhered to, though a wild U-turn into busy on coming traffic is the norm. Maybe Sri Lankans are just masters of time management. After all, why barge along the road a few 100 meters and go all the way round the block when you can pull a sharp turn and stamp a look of horror across a tourist’s face? Lanes are an extension of their version of queuing: see a gap and zoom-zoom-zoom!
Indicating is done but I don’t think they really understand the concept. Indicators aren’t really used to indicate a lane change, but they are used to signal a turn. However, they are put on 3 streets before the drivers actually reach their desired turn. I’m not sure if this is done just for fun or to confuse tourists trying to cross roads; either way, I’ve learnt to take as much notice of them as the locals seem to do.
The city is never quiet due to the use of the beloved horn. Rather than being the occasional ‘Watch out, I’m here!’ warning (which it obviously means in the UK) it’s more ‘Watch out! I’M here and I’M going to continue along MY course so you should probably move!’. This extends to pedestrian crossings. Back home we have to patiently wait until the person is safely on the pavement at the other side, whether they’re a plodding old tortoise or just an infuriatingly slow moron. Over here they do slow down, at least until you’re the other side of their bonnet and then it’s a free-for-all again. The only exception to this seems to be at the rare traffic light/zebra crossing combo. Everything stops properly but there is an illuminated countdown. You’re only given 15 seconds to cross, if you haven’t made it by then the vehicles move off regardless. Crossing the road in general is just like walking along the pavement, it’s taken at a stroll and you assume no one is going to bump into you.
Normal traffic lights are mostly obeyed –except by tuk-tuks that is, they’re the mavericks of the road. Ordinary cars stop but, being brightly coloured and excitable like a child with ADHD, they nip around the cars and stop directly in front of them over the line. When they can’t stand the minute’s wait any longer or the crossing traffic just looks like it’s having too much fun, they simply zoom off and miraculously merge seamlessly into the flow.
Strangely, despite all this I don’t fear for my life, unlike my time in Morocco where I was certain every driver was in the pay of the Reaper and on commission. Maybe it’s because I think they all understand how everyone else will behave, or maybe it’s just because I’m distracted by the bright colours. I don’t know yet.