Vehicle honking is so common that on days we do not hear it, we feel rather uneasy.
Jokes apart, in addition to causing noise pollution, continuous loud honking often causes serious hearing issues, over a period of time.
However, there is some relief—our roads soon might be a little less noisy, as the Indian Government is planning to reduce the noise level of horns on vehicles to under 100 decibels.
That is a reduction of 10% from the existing maximum permissible limits, according to the Times of India.
Currently, the noise range for horns is between 93 decibels (dB), and 112 decibels (dB), specified in the Central Motor Vehicle Rules. According to Abhay Damle, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, the authorities are looking to curtail that to 88 dB, at the lower end, with the maximum end being just under 100 dB.
The Ministry in Delhi has also had several discussions with automobile companies, and the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, in this regard.
Damle added that the curtailing of noise levels is due to the constant presence of noise pollution in Indian cities; the high decibel levels are being blamed for rising cases of eardrum damage and hearing loss.
Ravi Kalra, the founder of Earth Saviour’s Foundation, is known as the ‘No Honking Man of India.’ Read here, about how Ravi has always tirelessly worked to curb noise pollution in Delhi.
Mumbai too, has tried curbing noise pollution. Read here about ‘HornVrat,’ which was literally a fast from horns, where the message to honk less or not at all, was spread through a city which hears 18 million horns an hour.
Honking becomes even worse, when vehicles are fitted with blaring pressure horns, after-market multi-tone horns, that have decibel levels even higher than what is allowed.
Indians love honking so much, that companies perform special tests for their vehicles sold here. According to a top official with a major luxury carmaker, horns fitted on their cars in India, are of a ‘special category,’ being subject to much more use than say their European Counterparts.
However, it is not the formulation of a rule, but the implementation of it that matters ultimately, as Rohit Baluja, President of Road Traffic Education, has pointed out. There is a legislation against pressure horns and unnecessary honking, yet the authorities have allegedly not enforced it. The courts and National Green Tribunal have also taken up the issue of loud horns, but to no avail.
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Horns might get softer, but what is truly required is a change in the way we think—a horn is not to be used as a stereo system, i.e. continuously. Also, when drivers in India realise that using a horn does not always mean that they might get the right of way, things might change.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)