Sun, Mar 30, 2014 - Page 14 News List

New gadgets hope to hush Mumbai’s incessant honking

Excessive vehicle honking is not just an annoyance: It is taking a toll on the health of Indian city-dwellers, experts say

By Rachel O’brien  /  AFP, MUMBAI

“In hospitals I know people who have suffered very severely even in intensive care units because of the noise [outside],” said Sumaira Abdulali, founder of the Awaaz Foundation which campaigns against noise pollution.

She said sound levels in busy parts of Mumbai continuously exceed 85 decibels, breaking the limits recommended by health experts and contributing to high blood pressure, hearing loss and heart disease.

“A lot of people in Mumbai are suffering these things and the medical costs are quite high. Cutting down noise would cost much less,” she said.

In the capital, New Delhi, a group of campaigners takes to the streets several times a month, plastering cars with “Do Not Honk!” stickers.

In southern Bangalore, residents last year launched an “I Won’t Honk Campaign,” backed by Indian cricketer Rahul Dravid, which aimed to get drivers pledging not to use their horns unless completely necessary.

However, given the ingrained habit of honking, it seems such campaigns or gadgets are unlikely to work unless they are made compulsory.

“Most people say there is excess honking, but they think it’s the other drivers,” said Ram Prasad at Final Mile, a behavioral research group in Mumbai which has examined the honking phenomenon.

Prasad also warned that introducing traffic police fines may only encourage bribing, giving drivers the feeling that “they have only extra licence to blow and honk.”

“Any device that gives subtle feedback, people will be more willing to take,” he said.

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