Killer horn


Till a few years ago Delhi-based Pranav Kumar [name changed] used to drive his car fast and honk needlessly. “I was a honking enthusiast, and it gave me an adrenaline rush,” said Kumar. “Once I was with my mother, and navigating the busy Nelson Mandela Road got tougher. I kept honking and made my way, pestering and confusing every other car driver. Suddenly, I saw a man crossing the road. On seeing my car, he was befuddled and didn’t move an inch. I applied the brake, and the car came to a grinding halt. The man crossed the road, but my mother was terrified for a few seconds. That image still haunts me. It was then that I decided I will honk sparingly, or, if given a chance, I will never honk.”

And this was a good decision. Section 194(F) of the Motor Vehicles Act states that honking needlessly, or continuously, or more than necessary to ensure safety, is a punishable offence.

Honking frequently can frighten drivers and passersby, and it could lead to an accident. Excessive honking is one of the major causes of noise pollution in the country.

High decibel horns make drivers aggressive and it leads to accidents, said Dr V.D. Pradeep Kumar, Kochi-based ENT surgeon and chairman of the Kerala chapter of National Initiative for Safe Sound. “Such a trend is seen mainly on the outskirts of cities,” he said.

In January 2020, the Mumbai Police launched the ‘Honk more, wait more’ initiative, where drivers who honk at signals are made to wait more. The signal is connected to a decibel measurement unit.

‘Honk more, wait more’ became popular and the initiative was adopted by other states, said Anil Parab, Maharashtra transport minister. “We need to understand that horns are to be used only for essential purposes. It is not something that has to be pressed again and again,” said Parab.

Inspired by the initiative, the government of Telangana introduced it in Hyderabad. There is growing public anger against excessive honking in Hyderabad, said Anil Kumar, the city’s additional commissioner of police. “Most offenders are bike riders. We are catching hold of them and counselling them,” he told THE WEEK. In January, 2021, around 1,705 cases were registered in Hyderabad against people who honked excessively.

“People who honk non-stop have lack of empathy, poor tolerance and impatience as part of their personality traits,” said Dr Kavitha Mukesh, a psychiatrist. “A few do that because they have poor coping strategies.”

The permissible noise range for horns in India is between 93 and 112 decibels, which is measured at a distance of eight metres from the outset.

Constant exposure to honking can damage the human ear. “It can lead to palpitation, hypertension, asthma attack, hyper-acidity and irritability,” said Kumar. “Our study said 45 per cent of drivers, and 40 per cent of traffic police personnel, have varying degrees of noise-induced sensorineural hearing loss.”