We love honking, don’t we?

When we sms Happy New Year to our friends on Jan 1, 2011, we’ll have over 100 million vehicles on our roads.

Why is that bothering me?

Because each of these vehicles is equipped with a horn.  That makes a 100 million honking vehicles, merrily speeding on our under developed road network, day-in and day-out.

Assuming each vehicle drives for an average of 10 km every day, honking every 1 km (that may be conservative), collectively we hear a honking sound about 1 billion times a day!

“That’s not much of bother. After all, we a huge country of 1.2 billion people,” you may quip.

Wish you were right. 80% of the vehicles run in top ten cities. These cities are home to 15% of India’s population.

Take for example the road my office is situated. It’s not a very busy road. Yet, despite sealed glass windows, we experience uninterrupted honking through the day.

Similar story unfolds on the road I live. The moment we step near it, we’re greeted by a deluge of honking blasts! It seems we’ve set our foot into a battlefield (not that I have experienced an actual battlefield).

A road full of vehicles honking as often as they can is actually like a battlefield.  Yes, that’s what the facts seem to point out.

Complete silence is zero decibels;

A whispered voice is 30 decibels;

A normal conversation is 60 decibels;

Heavy city traffic is around 85 decibels;

A car horn is 110 decibels; and

A gunshot is 140 decibels.

You may have noticed – the difference between gunshot and car horn is not really much.

Our ears have been designed to handle sounds of up to 80 decibels safely. Beyond 80 decibels, the sound harms our capacity to hear. Longer the exposure to such sounds, more the damage.

Incessant noise from honking vehicles coupled with heavy city traffic is not very different from a battlefield. No wonder all of us are slowly losing our capacity to hear.

Of course we can do little about the traffic. But we certainly can do something about the honking.

Actually, we already are doing something.

Honking is banned at several places in cities – you can be challaned (fined) for honking. There are hundreds of signboards across our cities, especially near hospitals and schools, urging motorists not to use horn. In Delhi, I’ve also seen signboards ridiculing motorist for honking! Traffic police also launches advertising campaigns from time to time to create awareness to public. About a year back, Mumbaikars celebrated ‘no honk day’ to create awareness about it.

Has all this helped?

If it has, I’m unable to hear it. I perhaps would if the gentleman following my car would just stop honking!

Is this a difficult thing to do?

The experience in developed countries I’ve visited convinces me otherwise. Nobody over there honks. NOBODY! They only honk (rarely, and if at all) to show displeasure to someone.

My former colleague told me story about a bunch of ducks in her neighborhood in California. By mistake, the ducks had walked onto a road leading into apartment block. Soon, a line of cars piled up, patiently waiting for the ducks to clear the road. “No one honked,” she exclaimed!

A horn, if I understand correctly, is like politely saying excuse me to someone who may stepped into our path. Much like the way we remind those who may be obstructing our way. If that’s actually the case, the way we use horn just beats me. We seem to be telling the fellow motorists, or pedestrians, or cyclists, ‘Get aside you b*@#*ard, can’t see you see (me coming)’. ‘Move your butt you ass*@le, I don’t have whole day!’ Or, ‘you blind nincompoop, can’t you see I’m behind you! I can’t wait till eternity for you to give me way!’

There could only be two explanations about such behavior:

a. We are uncouth, insensitive or rude.

b. We genuinely believe we own the road (after all, we pay road tax).

Since none of us own any of the public roads, it can only be attributed to ‘rudeness’.

Do we have to really put up with others’ uncouth behavior? That too, when it directly harms us?

As none of the steps taken to make people reform and understand have worked, I suggest we impose on every vehicle a hefty tax if it wish to horn.

How?

Make the horn an ‘accessory’ or add-on with every new vehicle. The accessory must be acquired by paying a ‘license’ fee or tax. To be sold by the dealer only after a license fee has been recovered, and the same has been reimbursed to the government along with road tax.

The license fee can vary with the kind of vehicle. Sumos, Qualises, Innovas and Indica taxis must command the highest rate as their drivers honk with every breadth. Ditto for tempos and lorries. Price may also be linked to intensity of the horn – louder horn obviously attracting more fees. So if you wish to honk, pay for it.

How much must the license fee be?

Large enough to convince 9 out of 10 buyers not to opt for it. To my mind, the figure should be at least Rs.30,000 to 50,000 for four wheelers and at least Rs.5,000 for two wheelers.

There should also be a renewal tax, which must be at least 50% of amount paid at the time of installation.

Is it impossible to drive without honking?

Everyone in the west drives without using their horns.

“But India is different. We have a maze of traffic, diversity of vehicles, narrow broken road? How can we drive without honking,” you may question?

I’ve been living in Bangalore for more than 5 years now. Besides IT, Bangalore is notoriously known for its traffic snarls. Yet, I don’t use a horn. Almost never. In fact, sometimes several days pass before I honk to say ‘excuse me’.

I’m happy to report I get through pretty smoothly, and with little stress. Yes, I do take a few minutes extra to complete my journey, which I think is a small price to pay for helping create a less noisy environment.

I must point out to a major benefit – not honking has made me a better driver. More patient, more sensitive to others, especially pedestrians and cyclists. And ‘safer’ as well, as I drive a tad slower than others.

Till we can introduce a tax on honking, I urge you to drive without honking. Give it a shot. You’ll realize, it’s easier than honking!

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When we sms Happy New Year to our friends on Jan 1, 2011, we’ll have over 100 million vehicles on our roads.
Why is that bothering me?
Because each of these vehicles is equipped with a horn. That makes a billion honking vehicles, merrily speeding on our under developed road network, day-in and day-out.
Assuming each vehicle drives for an average of 10 km every day, honking every 1 km (that may be conservative), collectively we hear a honking sound about 1 billion times a day!
“That’s not much of bother. After all, we a huge country of 1.2 billion people,” you may quip.
Wish you were right. 80% of the vehicles run in top ten cities. These cities are home to 15% of India’s population.
Take for example the road my office is situated. It’s not a very busy road. Yet, despite sealed glass windows, we experience uninterrupted honking through the day.
Similar story unfolds on the road I live. The moment we step near it, we’re greeted by a deluge of honking blasts! It seems we’ve set our foot into a battlefield (not that I have experienced an actual battlefield).
A road full of vehicles honking as often as they can is actually like a battlefield. Yes, that’s what the facts seem to point out.
Complete silence is zero decibels;
A whispered voice is 30 decibels;
A normal conversation is 60 decibels;
Heavy city traffic is around 85 decibels;
A car horn is 110 decibels; and
A gunshot is 140 decibels.
You may have noticed – the difference between gunshot and car horn is not really much.
Our ears have been designed to handle sounds of up to 80 decibels safely. Beyond 80 decibels, the sound harms our capacity to hear. Longer the exposure to such sounds, more the damage.
Incessant noise from honking vehicles coupled with heavy city traffic is not very different from a battlefield. No wonder all of us are slowly losing our capacity to hear.
Of course we can do little about the traffic. But we certainly can do something about the honking.
Actually, we already are doing something.
Honking is banned at several places in cities – you can be challaned (fined) for honking. There are hundreds of signboards across our cities, especially near hospitals and schools, urging motorists not to use horn. In Delhi, I’ve also seen signboards ridiculing motorist for honking! Traffic police also launches advertising campaigns from time to time to create awareness to public. About a year back, Mumbaikars celebrated ‘no honk day’ to create awareness about it.
Has all this helped?
If it has, I’m unable to hear it. I perhaps would if the gentleman following my car would just stop honking!
Is this a difficult thing to do?
The experience in developed countries I’ve visited convinces me otherwise. Nobody over there honks. NOBODY! They only honk (rarely, and if at all) to show displeasure to someone.
My former colleague told me story about a bunch of ducks in her neighborhood in California. By mistake, the ducks had walked onto a road leading into apartment block. Soon, a line of cars piled up, patiently waiting for the ducks to clear the road. “No one honked,” she exclaimed!
A horn, if I understand correctly, is like politely saying excuse me to someone who may stepped into our path. Much like the way we remind those who may be obstructing our way. If that’s actually the case, the way we use horn just beats me. We seem to be telling the fellow motorists, or pedestrians, or cyclists, ‘Get aside you b*@#*ard, can’t see you see (me coming)’. ‘Move your butt you ass*@le, I don’t have whole day!’ Or, ‘you blind nincompoop, can’t you see I’m behind you! I can’t wait till eternity for you to give me way!’
There could only be two explanations about such behavior:
a. We are uncouth, insensitive or rude.
b. We genuinely believe we own the road (after all, we pay road tax).
Since none of us own any of the public roads, it can only be attributed to ‘rudeness’.
Do we have to really put up with others’ uncouth behavior? That too, when it directly harms us?
As none of the steps taken to make people reform and understand have worked, I suggest we impose on every vehicle a hefty tax if it wish to horn.
How?
Make the horn an ‘accessory’ or add-on with every new vehicle. The accessory must be acquired by paying a ‘license’ fee or tax. To be sold by the dealer only after a license fee has been recovered, and the same has been reimbursed to the government along with road tax.
The license fee can vary with the kind of vehicle. Sumos, Qualises, Innovas and Indica taxis must command the highest rate as their drivers honk with every breadth. Ditto for tempos and lorries. Price may also be linked to intensity of the horn – louder horn obviously attracting more fees. So if you wish to honk, pay for it.
How much must the license fee be?
Large enough to convince 9 out of 10 buyers not to opt for it. To my mind, the figure should be at least Rs.30,000 to 50,000 for four wheelers and at least Rs.5,000 for two wheelers.
There should also be a renewal tax, which must be at least 50% of amount paid at the time of installation.
Is it impossible to drive without honking?
Everyone in the west drives without using their horns.
“But India is different. We have a maze of traffic, diversity of vehicles, narrow broken road? How can we drive without honking,” you may question?
I’ve been living in Bangalore for more than 5 years now. Besides IT, Bangalore is notoriously known for its traffic snarls. Yet, I don’t use a horn. Almost never. In fact, sometimes several days pass before I honk to say ‘excuse me’.
I’m happy to report I get through pretty smoothly, and with little stress. Yes, I do take a few minutes extra to complete my journey, which I think is a small price to pay for helping create a less noisy environment.
I must point out to a major benefit – not honking has made me a better driver. More patient, more sensitive to others, especially pedestrians and cyclists. And ‘safer’ as well, as I drive a tad slower than others.
Till we can introduce a tax on honking, I urge you to drive without honking. Give it a shot. You’ll realize, it’s easier than honking!

 

Comments

  1. My Horny Tale

    I am allergic to honking so much so, that I fail to use it even when it is imminent.

    I sometimes wish my horn had some musical melody to it, something soothing, calming, polite, gentle….. But no way, a HORN has to be HORNY and I am too shy to share this Hornyness in public.

    My brother in law and his family live in Canada and they narrate tales about honking and how it is considered rude, if you honk someone. These repeated tales have also put their respective mark on my psyche and every time I have to Honk….. I have to check myself and ask……. Do I need to be so rude??

    This change of perception about the horn has affected me so much that, like Raj puts it, the Quails, the Sumos, the Innovas and the likes that ferry the BPO employees from Gurgaon to Delhi and back, when they Honk one time too many, I loose my cool. Every honk sounds like an Oral abuse to me and I have on several occasions lowered my car window and shouted, abused at the driver. On other occasions, I been stubborn enough and not given side or deliberately positioned my car in front of those big big SUVs. I know…… from Honking we are not steering towards Road Rage (there is a lot to it, i swear) but yes, I been tempted.

    As a personal discipline I avoid honking but in India, if you don’t know how to honk… you don’t know how to drive. You will miss every opportunity of right of way You will miss every opportunity to overtake, you will ridiculously stop your vehicle behind someone else’s’ because he suddenly decides he needs to stop and ask for direction. You will use all your guessing skill and watch the girl crossing the road as she swings her body and walks with her cell phone held tight to her ears and her eyes towards the other direction. You will sweat, you will slow, you will wait for her to go before you pick up the speed once again.

    There are few unpleasant honking experiences and some pleasant.

    Where I live, there is a Central School which has a second shift which goes off around the same time as I reach home. Now kids these days…… they stand in the middle of the road and even though they realize that my car is approaching, they are in denial. A person like me, a non honker, slows down his vehicle as I approach them, hoping, praying that the boy will move, give way……..now…….. here he moves…….. a little……….. yes, he will….. he will…… will he?? ….. he decides to stand with his back towards me and I can see that he is throwing a challenge at me …… come on Big guy…….. if you dare!! ……… just Honk and my nerves go tender……… I can’t do it……..so I move in stealth, stealing every inch of ground they offer me….. Turning right and left, being polite to their position but then comes a stage where I end in a full stop. I have no choice but to Honk and with all remorse and shame, I do…….. oh my god…..what did I do…… the kid turns, glares me in the eye…. I fill with shame, oh god!! ……..what have I done……what kind of example have I set before a youngster. I wish the road splits wide and I fall into it……. as the feeling of shame peaks, the kid slowly movesallowing me so much space that when I steal my car through the gap…..their school bags hit my rear view and it slaps shut on the window screen. Good for me…… for that kind of behavior.

    Now, the most pleasant honking session is when you are stopped at a signal by the traffic cop and he has his back to you and has either forgotten that you are there with hundred more vehicles behind you or decides not to care. On such occasions, I love to honk………rude it is?? OHhhhhhhh yessssss!!!! ……….. I love it……… about time I showed my Horns to someone!!! Honkkkkkkkkkk!!!!

  2. Today morning in the early hours while returning from Agra, My driver nearly hit a moped saddled with a huge sack taking a u-turn in the middle of no-where on the National Highway.

    Honking didn’t seem to impact the other persons behavior. He just glanced over his shoulder shrugged it off & went about his usual business.

    He could have lost his life. But do we value life in this country?

    It is not the first time, this is a regular phenomenon on our roads. I am sort of used to it now.

    I still remember using my bike to work in Delhi, hadn’t used the horn even once till my friend who rode it one day & I remember telling him how much noise he makes on the road, to which his reply was,” I have been driving for 15 years in my small town & there no one gives the way till you honk”. He was mo more than 25.

    I feel there are two basic issues we tend to miss in the whole process
    > We as people have become impolite & egoists.
    > To get a license in this country is easier than earning an honest bread.

    Taxing/ licensing the horns is not the solution, since we as a race are used to bypassing laws & corrupting the system.

    Instead the solution could be so simple. We need to educate our-self. It can begin at home, school or even our work place.

    Worth a try. It is the only permanent solution.

  3. And what are we going to do about the myriad trucks, buses and sundry other ‘machines’(they are so low tech that there is no other word to describe them!) that have ‘Horn – ok TATA – Please’ written all over their ‘backsides’

    My boss – Charlotte, a New Zealander – actually asked me why vehicles write Horn Please? In her country people only honk at someone who has broken rules of the road (a rare phenomenon) !!

    I had no logical reason to give her – is there one at all, I wonder. So I winged it…she expressed confusion by rocking her pretty face rightwards and rolling her eyes upwards !

    Best regards

    Oscar

    PS: the comment box feature was not available on your blog – hence this mail

  4. I remember once when the Palio horn sopped working. And I use my horn very sparingly. I know because my cousin pointed it out to my Masi who presses the horn more than the accelerator when she drives.

    So I thought I could manage without one. But, surprisingly, I couldn’t. There are times when a horn just IS required. For example, at a red light the car ahead is slipping backwards because the guy has not put his handbrake on. Or when someone suddenly steps onto the road and is looking the other way and if you brake hard the guy behind you will bang into you.

    But overall I agree. The horn is misused and we need a smart solution to curb it’s use. Perhaps standard company-fitted horns should be of a lower decibel. My mom’s Swift’s horn is very loud and it came as it.

  5. Since there was no option of posting my comments after reading the article, i’m mailing you my comment.

    Interesting article.

    I so totally agree with you. I too drive around almost with zero honking. Honking if at all, should be made an offense. You must’ve seen the way most delhiites honk with a smugness that jars your sensibilities. In fact, we should totally remove horns from vehicles. Use dipper in case you’ve got ants in your pants!

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