By Gitanjali Maria:
I use my fingertips to close my ears. It has become such a pain travelling on the road, especially if you are driving a two wheeler or taking a rickshaw.
There is probably not a single day when I don’t get irritated with the terrible and unnecessary honking on the road. And the proportion of the sound of the horn is disproportionately more than the size of the vehicle. Bikes blare their horns so loud that I sometimes jump aside thinking that a lorry is coming.
Horns have been placed inside the cars so that drivers can alert pedestrians and other travellers in case of any danger. It is to be used as a tool to caution others and to alert them to be careful while driving through narrow lanes and sharp turns.
But horns today seem to be an indication of our inflated egos and an expression of anger and impatience. We blow the horn relentlessly so that we can avoid the trouble of driving carefully. “I had blown the horn. He should have moved out of my way,” is a common line that people use when their vehicle hits somebody. Simply blowing horn all the time and going on driving recklessly is not the correct way to behave on the roads.
Impatience prevents us from letting others pass and overtaking other vehicles even when it is not actually feasible. The latter is accomplished through long and sonorous horns. I have also seen instances when people honk just to scare away pedestrians on the footpath even when there is adequate space on the road. An even more disturbing situation is when people on two-wheelers take over the footpaths to beat the traffic and keep honking persistently to get the pedestrians out of the way. There is a category of drivers who just don’t seem to be capable of keeping their hands off the horns. They honk out of habit.
The honking culture has also probably created a society that raises its decibel levels and fists even for small things on the road. Road rage and its subsequent violent actions could be a consequence of traffic-induced stress and the culture of “me first” on the roads.
Apart from the inconvenience and unpleasant emotion that incessant honking evokes, it is also something which can have hazardous health consequences.
Along with poor air quality in the country, Indian cities also fare among the worst in noise pollution. A report by Citiquiet, mentions Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi, ranking them in the bottom five among world cities in noise polution. The incessant honking is a nuisance.
An Environment Status Report released by Aurangabad Municipal Corporation says that the permissible levels of noise are 45 dB during the day and 35 dB at night. Noise levels over 80 dB are considered to be health hazards. A study from Centre for Science and Environment reported that some areas in Delhi experience 90 dB during peak traffic at residential zones.
Listening to sounds with high decibel levels can cause health hazards including partial or complete deafness, depending on age and exposure. Studies have found that traffic police officers who are continuously exposed to this noise can suffer from partial or complete hearing loss. Various other reports also suggest that traffic noise can lead to increased stress levels, impact sleep quality, increase blood pressure and lead to poor quality of life.
Despite attempts by many organisations to create awareness about this bad habit and to sensitise people about the harmful effects of traffic noise, hardly any change in attitude can be seen. Stringent measures such as limiting the permitted decibel level for horns of different vehicle types, imposing a fine on drivers who honk unnecessarily, such as during the short time between the green light and when the first vehicle starts moving or in no-horn zones such as near schools, can be a start. Driving classes and driving license tests should also include provisions for inculcating the habit of honking only when necessary.