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30 Basic Rules of the Road

With new vehicles coming out each day and lot of new drivers behind the wheel, it is imperative that we get back to the basics and make sure we are following the rules and making sure everyone else we know is following the rules. No exceptions – if you are behind the wheel of a car or riding a two wheeler you have to know and follow the rules.  All you new Tata Nano owners and first time drivers – this post is dedicated especially for you.

The source of these rules is the official website of the Department of Road Transport and Highways. The language on the government website is a bit convoluted and difficult to read and the rules are in separate PDF files which makes it tedious to read. I have tried to make the rules easy to understand and have consolidated them all into this post. These rules are referred to as the Rules of the Road Regulations, 1989 and came into effect from the first day of July 1989. Here they are:

  1. Keep Left:  Drive as close to the left side of the road and allow all traffic going in the opposite direction to pass on the right hand side.
  2. Turning Left: When needing to turn onto a road on the left, stay close to the left side of the road and after making the turn continue on the left side of the road. (Do not cut across lanes from the right side of the road and then turn left).
  3. Turning Right: When turning onto a road on the right side, first approach the center of the road as safely as possible and then turn to the right and stay on the left side of the road.
  4. Passing: If there is a need to pass traffic proceeding in the same direction, always pass/overtake them on their right side. The only exception to this would be the case where a vehicle that is trying to turn to the right (and has indicated their intention to turn right) is occupying the center lane and therefore requires passing them on the left side.
  5. Passing Prohibited: Overtaking/passing a vehicle proceeding in the same direction is prohibited in the following scenarios:
    1. The passing/overtaking would cause inconvenience or danger to any vehicle proceeding in any direction.
    2. On bends/curves in the road or on hills or there are other obstructions present that prevents a clear view of the road ahead.
    3. If the driver behind the current vehicle has already started to overtake the vehicle
    4. The driver of the vehicle in front has not yet signaled that he may be overtaken. (
      Please Note
      : The solid lines painted on the middle of the road indicate passing is prohibited for as long as the line is a solid line- you will notice them on bridges, curves and where visibility of the road ahead is not present. Overtaking when safe to do so is allowed when the line changes to a dashed line.)
  6. When being Passed/Overtaken by another vehicle: The driver should not speed up or do anything to prevent the other vehicle from passing.
  7. Intersections:  Drivers should slow down when approaching road corners, intersections, junctions or pedestrian crossings and not enter until sure that such an entry will not endanger the safety of pedestrians or people in other vehicles there.
  8. Right of Way: When entering an intersection that is not regulated by a traffic signal or by a traffic policeman and which is an entry onto a main road, the driver of the vehicle is to give right of way to the vehicles already proceeding on that road. In all other cases the driver is to give way to traffic approaching from his right hand side and only then proceed.
  9. Emergency Vehicles:  Fire Service Vehicles and Ambulances are to be allowed free passage and drivers of all other vehicles should move their vehicles to the side of the road to do so.
  10. Pedestrians: Pedestrians have the right of way at uncontrolled pedestrian crossings.
  11. “U” Turns:  “U” turns may be done only when
    1. Not explicitly prohibited by a sign
    2. Only after indicating the turn is being planned either through a hand signal or through the vehicle indicators
    3. After checking the mirrors  to make sure there is no traffic from behind
    4. Checking the road to make sure that there is no other traffic and it is safe to do so.
  12. Required Signals:These are really hand signals are mentioned in point 13 of the rules of the road. Very few people actually know the hand signs and use them.  It is good to learn them and be prepared to use them if you have any issue with your indicator lights or with your brake lights. The hand signs for the following should be followed if the vehicle brake/indicator lights do not work:
    1. When the vehicle is about to slow down
    2. When the vehicle is about to stop
    3. When the vehicle is about to turn to the right side or pass a vehicle on the right
    4. When the vehicle is about to turn to the left
    5. When indicating that it is safe for the vehicle behind to pass
  13. Indicators: The signals indicated in regulation #13 can be simplified by the use of mechanical or electrical devices (indicators).
  14. Parking: When parking the vehicle make sure that it does not cause any danger, obstruction or inconvenience for other road users.
  15. Registration: Loads or goods should not be kept on the vehicle in a manner that obstructs visibility, the headlamps/tail lamps or the registration number of the vehicle. If any obstruction of the registration is done a duplicate is to be kept in a visible spot.
  16. One Way Roads: On designated “One Way” roads drive only in the direction indicated on the road signs. Do not drive the vehicle in reverse into a “One way” street.
  17. Stop Lines: At road intersections, pedestrian crossings and stop signs make sure that the vehicle is fully behind the stop lines painted on the road. The driver has to drive taking into account this requirement of stopping before the stop line when required by a stop light or sign or by a police officer.
  18. Towing:No vehicles may be towed behind another motor vehicle. The only exceptions are
    1. Mechanically disabled vehicles
    2. Incompletely assembled vehicles
    3. Registered trailers and sidecars
    4. The above may be towed only for the purpose of delivery or to the nearest garage or service station.
  19. Noise: Drivers should not
    1. Sound the horn more than necessary for safety. Continuously and unnecessary sounding of the horn is illegal.
    2. Sound the horn In designated silent zones ( for e.g. such as hospital zones )
    3. Use multi-toned horns that are harsh, shrill,  loud or alarming
    4. Use cut outs for the exhausts
    5. Drive vehicles that create a lot of noise when in motion
    6. Drive vehicles without proper mufflers causing a loud sound
  20. Traffic Lights & Signs:  Obey the traffic signal lights , the instructions given by the traffic policemen or by designated/authorized people in charge of regulating traffic
  21. Following Distance: Keep sufficient distance behind the vehicle in front to allow distance to stop if the vehicle in front has to stop suddenly.
  22. Right of Way on mountain roads/ steep roads: Where the width of the road is not sufficient for vehicles to pass each other safely, the vehicle going downhill has to stop to the side of the road and allow the vehicles going uphill to pass.
  23. Obstruction of Control: The driver of the vehicle should not allow a person to sit, stand or place anything that obstructs his control of the vehicle.
  24. Passing Pedestrians:  When passing a procession, meeting, troops or police on the march or road repair workmen do not drive faster than 25 kilometers per hour.
  25. Tractor & Goods Carriages: Drivers of tractors are not permitted to carry passengers on the tractor. Drivers of good carriages should not allow more persons than listed on the vehicle registration to travel in the cabin or take passengers for hire or reward.
  26. Loading: Vehicles should not be loaded in such a way that causes danger to other road users. Load carrying vehicles should not have anything extending outside the vehicle towards the front, rear, sides and should also follow allowed maximum height restrictions.
  27. Dangerous Materials: Other than the fuel and lubricant necessary for vehicle operation, no explosive, inflammable or other dangerous substance should be carried on any public transport vehicle.
  28. Driving in reverse: The driver should not drive the vehicle in reverse without first making sure that doing so would not cause any danger or inconvenience to any person on the road.
  29. Documents to be carried/produced on demand:The person driving the vehicle is to always carry the following documents:
    1. Driving License
    2. Certificate of registration of the vehicle
    3. Certificate of taxation
    4. Certificate of insurance
    5. For transport vehicles the following additional documents are required
      1. The permit
      2. Fitness certificate
    6. These documents are to be produced on demand by any Police officer in Uniform, Officers of the Motor Vehicles Department in Uniform or by any officer authorized by the Government. If the driver does not have the documents in his/her possession he should produce attested copies in person or through registered post to the officer who demanded it within 15 days.
  30. Additional Regulations: Drivers have to be familiar with the following additional guidelines of the Motor Vehicles Act 1988 . The numbers below are the Motor Vehicles Act numbers. These are PDF files.
    #112 – Speed Limits
    #113 – Weight Limits, II
    #121 – Signals , Signals II 
    #122 – Leaving vehicle in a dangerous position
    #125 – Duplicate of #24 on Obstruction of Control
    #132 – Duty to of Driver to Stop
    #134- Duties of driver in case of accident/injury -I, II
    #185 – Drunken Driving
    #186 – Driving when mentally or physically unfit to drive
    #194 – Driving vehicle exceeding weight limits
    #207 – Power to detain vehicles without required documents

Please also look at this thread on Team-BHP which covers a lot of the fines and additional regulations of the Motor Vehicles Act. One reply by arjyamaj is fun to read.

Though these are the rules how we actually drive in India is much different. Do take a look at one of my related posts on this topic here: http://cars.zimbly.com/2009/05/driving-in-india/

A Request: Please pass these rules to your friends and relatives and if you are/know a first time driver please make sure they go through these before they get behind the wheel. Make sure your own drivers follow these rules and demand that your hired drivers (cabs/rentals/autos/share autos) also follow these rules. Please sign in through comments that you will follow these rules as much as you can and will encourage as many others as you can to do so as well.  Let us make the roads a bit safer for everyone.  Drive Safe!

Updated: May 31,2012 – Fixed a lot of the links to the Ministry Website that seemed to have become obsolete.

42 comments to 30 Basic Rules of the Road

  • Great compilation of basic rules that some times experienced drivers also may break.From my personal observation I think lack of awareness causes many violations.This is high time to introduce road manners/rules as a compulsory subject in schools and colleges.Thus atleast new generation will be aware of basic traffic rules.
    “Drive Safe”

  • Will keep these in mind when I eventually get to drive :)

  • Sushil

    George & Danesh Thanks for the support. Sadly even though I had typed these up and seem to have most of them in memory – on the way in to work and on the way back I had no choice but to break some of these rules. I consoled myself that I did try and follow as many as I could but still other jokers on the road have not understood the rules and force people to break them. For e.g. the underpowered load carrying small cargo vehicles usually hog the lane next to the median and go very slowly. You are forced to overtake them from the left as staying behind them will do you no good, flashing your lights or honking will just result in them showering you with expletives !

  • Some very useful tips Sushil. Sadly very very few people actually follow these rules and thats the reason for high accidents.

  • Sushil

    Thanks ICB. I am writing my next one on how we actually drive :-). Hope to publish it within a day.

  • Keep up the good work.

  • Sushil

    Thanks Raaga & ICB.

  • arjyamaj

    Hey Sushil,

    Thanks for mentioning my post on Team-BHP! Hope it helped some drivers!

    Cheers

    Arjyamaj

  • Rajiva Joshi

    Nice compilation!

    But, are there a few additions for pedestrians? Can you please edit?

    Thanks for it.

  • K.S.Vatsan

    Two things are found missing in this otherwise quite a useful write up, i.e. Drive in city limits with low beam(Head Lights)and blink the Head Lights when any vehicle approaches on the road from opposite direction; switch on only parking lights while reversing the vehicle and waiting for signals at Traffic junctions.

  • K.S.Vatsan

    Thanks for posting my suggestion.I am an Hyderabadi.Here there are hardly any traffic rules.The sad thong is Police themselves are ignorant of even basic rules. The silver lining is the young Additional Commissioner of Police(Traffic) and a few of his dedicated deputies try their best to inculcate certain discipline regarding traffic rules to be followed by the citizens.A very irritating thing is the habit of overtaking vehicles in turns and curves and absolutely no lane system for different vehicles to move.The traffic umbrellas generally is so small for the Police to have a clear look at the vehicles approaching the junctions and so forcing the Traffic Constables to stand on the road there by risking their lives and difficult for Vehicles to sigh them.Blind eyes to people going triples or at times even four persons on two wheeler.

  • james malla

    these rules are almost the same applied in Kenya except for a few changes.

  • harshika

    all the rules are very nicely compiled….nd will be useful for the people who r learning driving…

  • SUDHEER

    1st 3 rules are wrong, even in india, where u just can’t drive on left side as smaller vehicles and walkers are there + a lot of stoppages for busses, so allways drive to the right as righthanded drivers have dominant right eye/side of body, and if they drive on left they fail to control.

  • Sushil

    Hi Sudheer – I am not making up these rules on my own. These are rules from the Dept of Road Transport applicable across India. Not many people are aware that these are the rules. How we drive is covered in another post :-).

  • bipin

    create a website, with road rules, vehicle documentation, i came to this page searching a website which provide details like this.

  • Sushil

    Thanks Bipin.Will keep adding more rules/safety posts.

  • Pankaj

    Quite Informative & Useful.
    Keep it U

    Thanks for Sharing

    PANKAJ

  • Tulsidas

    WE should all follow. Life is precious.

  • Ruchir

    Is it compulsory to keep license while driving two wheeler? We have to keep license with us wherever we go? and If police catch us while driving but we dont have license at that time we forgot at home than we have to pay fine to them or not.

  • It is true you have to listen to the traffic rulessssssssss okkkkkkkkkkkkkk!

  • raveena shahji

    Obey the traffic rules to be safe

  • Tomy

    Hi, that was fantastic. Could you furnish the basic traffic rules that a school going child should be familiar with? It would be good to teach the children to follow them and thus avoid careless accidents. Lets catch them young.
    Regards,
    Tomy. Varghese,
    SPA

  • Dishant Verma

    Its really useful information. Many thanks to the writer for devoting his time for a reader like me.

  • vicky

    Thank you worthy information.

    I have met wid an accident so im getting into it.

  • its really very useful for everyone

  • It is difficult to drive in India – 2 accidents in an year due to people not following rules.

  • We should listen rules that is good rules are rules okkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk Nice good

  • concerned

    I would like to know if a fault has been committed by the driver are the police allowed to drag him out of the vehicle and without asking any questions..the police verbally abuse the driver and even physically slap him …is it permitted?

  • Kshitij

    School kids should also be taught basic behavior and rules of roads both while they are driving and while they are walking/crossing the roads. These days it has become a bad habit of school students that as they get out of their school gates, they forget all the etiquette of standing and walking in a line. They just flock out on the roads, making a mess out there on the road and disrupting the flow of the road, and increasing the risks of injury to them or their fellow students. It simply gets crowded. Moreover, I think the fault is of the school management. They think that their responsibility ends as the student gets out of the school gate. Which is wrong. One option is that they should appoint prefects who should be responsible to control both – the way students cross roads to their buses/cabs/etc, and signal the vehicles on that road to stop/wait/drive slow during that period when the students are leaving the school.

  • Paritosh Garg

    There are slip roads to take left at Various intersections to decongest the traffic on the Crossings. In case I ignore / Forget the Slip road …. Is it an offence to take left from the intersection.
    I am confused because different people have different opinions and I could not find the confirm rules on this issue . I believe that it should not be an offence still i want to know the exact picture as per rules.

  • AKASH

    Thanks a lot……its easier to understand it here………!!

  • nishtha sonkar

    drivve safe

  • Shekar

    I wish these rules could be passed on to Delhi Traffic Police also. DTP Personnel either appear to be ignorant of the rules or sympathise with the violaters as they ignore a number of violations which cause avoidable misery to a number of people. Delhi Traffic Police should understand the affect on other road users due to such transgressions. Simply advising the road users to avoid road rage is only going to add salt to the wounds.

  • M.Thiyagarajan

    Hi,

    It is the first basic requirement for all Indians to know the traffic rules and following strictly. I will share this link in my FB.

    Good work. keep posting more.

    M.Thiyagarajan

  • rakesh hiwase

    thank u for giving me this information,i will share a one information,some kind of traffic police not helping a public, so please do something @ that

  • deepak

    Is using of projector lamps an traffic offence ?

  • Jude

    Excellent guide lines. Hope every driver follows them. India will be a better and safer place to drive. But Hey I see the motor training school instructors teaching the learners to put their hand out to signal before making a turn :D LoL. Are we not in sync with the technology??? In Mumbai city the foot paths are occupied illegally by stalls and street vendors with pedestrians having no place to walk which in turn has the road congested and obstructs the flow of traffic. Will the authorities do any thing about this. Every one knows and can see this but no one not even the ones who are responsible can do any thing about it…Why??…..

  • Vibor

    Do the cops / traffic police have the right to stop me and ask for license even if i don’t break any rule?

  • pinky

    when we will walk on left then we may be hit so we should walk on right on our right so that we can see the vehicles coming from opposite side :P :)

  • Sushil

    Yes they can using random checking as the excuse.

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