HORN OK PLEASE” – Honking in India

I strongly believe it all started when they painted “HORN-OK-PLEASE” on the back of numerous trucks which travels anywhere within India. People took it literally and started HONKING, and since then it has become an important behavioral aspect. The real meaning of the text was to make riders aware – who ride behind a truck – that since being a big vehicle I can’t see you so please send me a signal by blaring your horn so I can give you a side to pass by. This reasoning fits, I suppose. Let me tell you one thing, the text “Horn-Ok-Please” though painted in sequence (per space on the back of the truck) doesn’t read that way. Instead, it says, Please horn so I know you are behind me, and as an acknowledgement, there’s this “OK” 😊

There are as many two-wheelers as there are cars today. Early days India had more two and three wheelers (Rikshaws) than cars. Due to the economic growth in multiple sectors, especially in Information Technology, people can afford cars and petrol (‘Gas’ in American parlance) too, I must say. The more vehicles on the road, more the noise. And they (let’s call them Honkies for this blog sake) want to make noise without needing a reason. Just because the horn button is conveniently placed on vehicles, the honkies decide to use it whenever they please. The button doesn’t need an extra power as it’s attached to a battery and the battery is fuelled by petrol, so if the battery is not dead, there’s nothing to lose.

I haven’t done any behavioral analysis of Honkies and I am no expert, so cannot say WHY they honk unnecessarily. Do honkies think that if they do so, they will irritate the front driver and somehow s/he will give a way? Or they take pride in doing so or seek the attention of others, either to themselves or to their costly bike or car? Now tell me, on a busy road where vehicles are either stuck or slow moving, what would honking constantly do to it? Every honkie knows that the traffic is not going anywhere, but still, they want to tweet. It’s magical or some law of physics probably. Constant honking would be creating an energy wave of some kind which will push everyone ahead…..!! Quite possible, ya.

No matter what they are driving, anything drivable entity on the road, the horn is as important and necessary as the gas pedal. If one leg is on it, so be a hand on the horn. We all know that the ubiquitous horn is an extension of people’s feelings, a substitute for anger and irritation. And that the western folks use it rarely only when in danger or angered over or irritated.

Let’s consider the data analysis from the financial capital and the busiest city, Mumbai. According to data (Source: Hindustan Times) from the Indian transport department, there are currently (as of Jan’2018) 3 million vehicles in Mumbai city. A Mumbai driver honks at least 6 times an hour and the city honks a whopping 18 million times an hour. This adds more than 5db to the noise already on the streets.

While I was researching on this topic, I found many articles, some scholarly, discussing this phenomenon. But all of them tend to justify why people honk, and these were obvious reasons like someone riding in the center of the street, a cow in between, a vehicle very close to collision etc. However, these are all true reasons, much of the honking happens when the traffic is snarled at a signal. As soon as the opposite traffic stops, people start to blare their horns in the hope that their signal would listen promptly and turn green. During my research, I came across an image that was apt. All it showed was how people treat signal lights.

If it’s Green, Go; if it’s Orange, Go Faster and if it’s Red, look around for a traffic cop and if not seen, keep driving.

I would urge manufacturers to bring in some Artificial Intelligence (AI) into these vehicles at least for horns. Two wheelers horns can be battery (special designed and a bit expensive than traditional – CR2032 or AAA or AA) operated which would drain if used constantly. This way honkies will use it sparsely and thus reduce noise on streets. Same thing for four wheelers. A separate battery connection and an indicator showing the battery life, so it can be replaced/recharged in time before it drains completely, which is when one has to open their windows and SHOUT….!!

Seems there is a strong movement in Mumbai to stop honking and some are responding to the need. It would certainly need more to eradicate this behavior.

Note: Readers, if you have any suggestions on HOW to educate these honkies, please share.

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