If you were to go by the recent diktats of the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, then all motorists should go easy on honking while driving on Bangalore roads. This is to ease the levels of noise pollution in the city. Noble thought, but the State Pollution Control Board should consider the fact that honking saves lives on Indian roads.
India records the highest number of deaths due to road accidents every year. The latest world-wide statistics released by International Road Federation (IRF) reveal that 1,19,860 people are killed in road accidents every year in India. Besides, India suffers a staggering hit of Rs1 lakh crore ($20 billion) every year due to road accidents. The chaos that you see on Indian roads is unimaginable, even in cities like Bangalore.
ROAD ACCIDENT FEAR
There are no lanes, and if there are lanes, there is no lane discipline. Lane cutting and overtaking can be aggressive and threatening. All sorts of vehicles could be zipping past you from all possible directions, and you can only resort to blowing your horn to deter or discourage an aggressive defaulter. Add to this are ones who take a lazy stroll on busy roads, blissfully unaware of the approaching vehicles and sure that the drivers and their brakes are good enough to save them.
Such people can only be warned and awakened by honking. Agreed that there are drivers who honk unnecessarily too, but then you shall always have to deal with those with poor road behaviour. Some noise pollution is better than hundreds and thousands dying on the roads.
For noise pollution, motor horns alone are not to blame. Industrial noise, construction noise and blaring loudspeakers are no better. The jagrans , kirtans , political events and marriages in north India would ensure that everyone had a ‘blast', so to speak, at night. No consideration is extended to children, elders and the sick. To protest was to invite a barrage of crowd hooliganism and public outrage. Can pollution boards stop such public nuisance?
This is not to justify honking, but just to convey that the root cause (poor traffic management) should be not be ignored; nor the usefulness of honking be overlooked.
If you are to be fined for honking, you would think twice before blowing a horn. As a result, you are left unarmed in front of a monster — traffic!
Issues can't be raised in silos. And if done so, they cause little engagement with the stakeholders.
(The author is Professor, Alliance School of Business, Bangalore.)