Menu Close

Silence Please. Misc. HT Feb 9 2008

The Hindustan Times

9 February 2007

Silence Please

By Ashali Varma

While the police wring their hands over the uncouth behavior of Delhi motorists and come up with an assortment of fines for jay walking, bad driving etc. little is really changing on our anarchic roads. Delhi traffic is as bad as it gets. It seems everyone on the road needs a lesson on first good behaviour, and then traffic rules.

The simplest way to fix both would be to ban horning. In Bangkok, where traffic jams are worse than here, people never horn in frustration, or suddenly cut lanes without indicating. In fact road rage is hardly known there. If Delhi was to pass a law to ban honking, motorists would automatically have to behave as they do in most civilized countries.

Drivers would have to indicate to change lanes. Cars would not be able to honk and swerve onto an adjoining road just to get ahead—they would have to look left and right and than make the turn when the oncoming traffic eases. Bus and truck drivers would not be able to keep one finger on the horn to say, “Get out of my way, I am bigger than you and will squash you in the next ten seconds.” Drivers of all vehicles would be forced to be more careful to avoid pedestrians. Scooter rickshaws and two wheelers would not be able to honk their way through traffic zig- zagging between cars. Buses, cars and all other traffic would just have to practice better driving as the all encompassing sound of the horn would be a thing of the past. Tempers would be lest frayed and road rage would diminish. And best of all we would have no noise pollution!

How many of us have been in a jam where you can’t move an inch and cars behind you honk away as if this would relieve the jam? How many times have we been trying to keep to lanes when a rude blaring horn pushes us off to a bus lane? Even while trying to park, motorists are so impatient they will honk just because they want you to get on with it fast. If horns were not allowed or motorists were fined, people would learn patience and good behaviour would automatically follow.  The mad rush to get ahead of traffic would have to be done using indicators and following traffic guidelines.

Sometimes, I have seen drivers just using the horn because they have got so used to it. I have stopped many a motorist and asked them what they are achieving by this and they have smiled sheepishly and said sorry, they didn’t realize! The fact is that honking has become so much a part of our psyche that we don’t even think about it. It is almost a permanent reflex action on the roads of our country, and not only does it lead to heightened tempers but I am sure it affects blood pressure and stress levels, which then leads to road rage.  

It would be easy to do this as other countries have. First we have to start with a “”No Horn Day,” decided by the Commissioners of Police, Lt. Governor, Mayor and other VIPS and celebrities and civil society and NGOs. Then all the newspapers and news television channels have to promote it. Schools, universities, public forums, Resident Welfare Associations, the traffic police all need to support it. On the decided date everyone on the road would be on alert not to honk. In all the silence that would prevail, police and even ordinary citizens would be able to catch the compulsive horners.  If we can have just one silent traffic day in Delhi, it would make such a difference that it would create awareness even among the worst drivers. This could than be made into a law. It would be easier to catch a honking motorist than one who says he did not go through the red light or that he did not swerve onto another lane. Along with all the measures that the police have already put into place this effort would help to encourage good behavior and civic decency on Delhi roads.   It has been done in Bombay so why not in Delhi?