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Mumbai to tackle noise pollution with anti-horn initiatives

“Honk allowance” and flashing frowning smiley button attempt to tackle horn epidemic in India.

In the UK the horn is meant to be used to warn drivers of your presence, not to say hello to friends or tell drivers they have just done something stupid. In the Indian city of Mumbai, the horn is seemingly used for anything and everything ─ an issue that is taking its toll on local ears.

It’s no wonder, then, a number of initiatives are trying to deter drivers from reaching for the horn when driving in one of India’s busiest and nosiest cities. One known as Project Bleep uses a red light with a unhappy smiley that flashes when you press the horn, making the driver think about his actions.

Project Beep creator Mayur Tekchandaney said the honk epidemic needs to be tackled by making drivers aware of their action instead of telling them what to do.

“We realised honking was a habit and in the case of habit we realised just telling [drivers] they are honking is not good for you is not going to do anything,” Teckchandaney explained. “We need to tackle it in a way where we make them aware when they do it, that they’ve done it and make them think about why they did it… as opposed to the morning before they get into the car or later on in the day.”

Project Beep reduced the amount of horn usage by 61 per cent during a group field test, suggesting the idea could well be music to the ears (sorry) of those who live in the busy city.

Another system called the ‘Oren Horn Usage Meter’ gives drivers a preset number of horn presses before the taillights start flashing, allowing the police to issue a fine. Drivers would, therefore, be more selective about when they show their anger in an audible way.

Drivers who are particularly prone to horn usage would be able to top up their “honk allowance” in similar fashion to using a pre-paid phone card.  The system, which was invented by Jayraj Salgaonkar, displays green, amber and red-light warnings depending on usage.

Foreign car manufacturers have actually started fitting cars with louder, more reliable horns because the horn is so important to Indian drivers, such is the issue.

Mumbai is home to more than 900,000 cars, 10,000 buses and 2 million two-wheelers. Sound levels are said to exceed 85 decibels on a regular basis, exceeding World Health Organisation recommended levels. Too much noise can lean to hearing loss, high blood pressure and even heart disease.

The next time you think about blasting another driver with the horn, try to keep your cool ─ or one day face the possibility of paying for the privilege.

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