Cops Crack Down on Overstuffed Rickshaws

India travelIt’s one of those double-take moments every traveler to India has at first, before they get used to it. While we seem to barely be able to fit ourselves and two backpacks into an Indian motorized rickshaw (tuk-tuk), when we look beside us in traffic we see a family of seven inside with a brother-in-law hanging off the back. Whhaaaaatt?

Apparently that’s just as unsafe as it looks. This Wall Street Journal article says the cops are cracking down—in Hyderabad anyway: Is this a can of sardines or a motorized rickshaw?

Here in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, autorickshaws are involved in one-third of all accidents, even though they account for only one out of every 20 vehicles on the road.

So the cops are cracking down. Police are enforcing long-ignored laws against overcrowding, and officials are rounding up drivers for training sessions. Drivers must sit through an educational video and view gory photos — autorickshaws crushed between buses, and mangled on roadsides — to qualify for a free lunch.

Maybe it’s just me, but that last juxtaposition seems too weird. You watch gory videos of traffic accidents and then…bring on the vindaloo?! The fines are nothing to laugh at though:

Tickets start at 50 rupees (about $1.25) for each passenger over the limit, so a single ticket can erase one-quarter of a driver’s typical 200-rupee daily profit.

On a related note, if you watch the TV show 30 Days, there’s a good one where a computer programmer who has lost his job to outsourcing goes to stay with an Indian family full of call center workers in Bangalore. If you’ve got a Tivo, track it down.

[Flikr photo from Mitva]

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