I grew up in a populous Indian city famous for its Hindi film industry, public transport, big corporate offices and banks (that make it the financial capital of India). Mumbai is the richest Indian city with the richest municipal corporation. With a GDP of 209 Billion USD, it ranks 24 in the list of richest cities in the world and with an estimated population of 19 million for the year 2016, it ranks 10 in the list of most-populated cities in the world. You would have thought that for such huge numbers, there would be methods to the madness. While there are rules for everything including driving, they are not as detailed and articulate as the ones I am currently studying. For my driving test in Mumbai, I was given a small booklet by my driving school. I wanted to compare the driving rules of Maharashtra with Florida but sadly, I cannot even find the driving rules on the dinosaur age Maharashtra RTO website. Is this the one? {I found a question bank though. Questions are always as important as the content in India. Not sure if it’s the case elsewhere. For example, I had friends in college who never touched their textbooks and only studied from question banks that provided solutions. Different style of studying, I guess.}.

Something that I shouldn’t be saying but my first comparison of my new home Jacksonville and Seattle – where I spent a few days – with Mumbai traffic was that: In Mumbai people break rules to go ahead, in the Jax/Seattle, you just have to follow them or you might end up causing a serious accident or paying a hefty fine. Case in point is this interesting piece by an American who visited India and compared driving in the two countries.

Traffic in Delhi looked like how American movies show the panicked exodus out of New York after a nuclear bomb

A counterview which is also valid is this talk by Devdutt Pattanaik

I know it’s easy to say that a first-world country is more organised than its third world brother and there are a number of factors that come into play that make such statements seem immature to some extent. Considering illiteracy, poverty, population and diversity have a major role to play in the successful implementation of rules in India. However, having said that, there is always scope for improvement.

Now getting to crux. Here’s what I really liked about the Florida driving handbook.

  1. It’s easily available on the web. You can read an online version or print one if you prefer a hard copy.
  2. It is user-friendly. Everything from the language used, to the way it is organised (the index, the notes to readers, the letter
  3. It has a bunch of detailed rules. The rules are specific and give you instructions on what you should do when you see an animal on the road, for example. It explains road science. For example, this diagram that illustrates something very important every driver should know. The concept of Braking Distance.
  4. Again, some more attention to detail. Things that distract motorists have been categorised into Visual, Manual and Cognitive.
  5. I also like the fact that roads in the US do not have drivers honking wildly. I woke up to noiseless mornings during my stay in downtown Manhattan and Seattle. It was quiet. In Mumbai, I spent 30 years of my life living in South Mumbai – or what you would call ‘town’. My house was located in Malabar Hill which is supposed to be one of the poshest residential areas in the city. But even though the property prices of the area I was living in were skyrocket high, the quality of living was poor. For example, in comparison, I would wake up to loud honking every morning and it would continue through the afternoon and evening. ‘Excessively hitting the horn’ is clearly categorised as ‘road rage’ in the Florida driving manual.