Monday, April 10, 2017

Why motorists honk unnecessarily

No Horn, Please
I haven’t been to many foreign countries; but one of the striking features of the few I have been to, is the calming quietness on the roads. But for the gentle roar of the vehicle engines, I very rarely heard any motorist honking.

However, in India, in any part of this vast country, it’s a totally different experience. Drivers just seem to be incapable of taking their fingers off the horn. There have been many awareness programmes, but few drivers seem to be bothered about the acute noise pollution and the related health hazards.

No driving school, I presume, educates the learner on this aspect. I was never told. In fact, a presumed advisory is to the contrary, if one goes by the "Horn Please" label on the back of many heavy vehicles. The presumption there is: "I am quite a big vehicle, and normally occupy most of the road. If you want me to give way for you, to get ahead, horn please." But the ‘Horn Please’ request has been taken out of context, and most drivers feel obligated to honk even if it’s totally unnecessary.

Four reasons why motorists honk

1) Habit. While learning to drive, the motorists were not very confident, and that led them to honk quite often. The habit has stuck with them even when they graduated to be an adept behind the wheel. In fact, they feel a sense of incompleteness if they don't themselves contribute to the general cacophony on roads.

2) A general fear that someone or some other vehicle might just come in their way. You would notice that such motorists will mostly honk even when there is no one on the road. Interestingly, they might not honk when people are on the road, because they think the pedestrians would have seen the vehicle and might not stray on to the road.

3) A third group of people are those who are in a tearing hurry to reach somewhere. They sound the hooter to ensure vehicles ahead of them give way, so that they can overtake and race ahead.

4) There is yet another group of people who excel in this noisy past time, particularly at traffic lights. They would actually be quite behind in the queue of vehicles, and the moment they see the light far ahead of them turn green, they ceaselessly toot. Their intention, according to them, is good: to alert the drivers ahead of them that the light has turned green, stop checking the messages and get ready to move. But they don't realize the auditory mayhem they are unleashing.

Is there a need to honk?

My own experience is that 9 out of 10 times there is no need to honk. It's all in the mind. The motorists have to be confident, realize that nothing catastrophic is going to befall humanity if they don’t honk; and just kick the habit. 

I doubt if we have had accidents only because someone didn’t honk. And conversely, with so much honking, India has one of the highest rates of road accidents in the world.

This is not to say that one should not sound the horn. The real menace is “needless honking”. Whether the blare of the toot is a distraction for most of us who are anyway used to the generally noisy environment might be debatable. But what is indisputable is the health hazard. Among the problems are hearing loss, stress and physical tiredness. A simple web search will yield plenty of data.

So, if you are one of those hooked to needless honking; here's a passionate request: Please Stop It.


  1. Replies
    1. Absolutely. But most people here don't seem to bother!

  2. seriously! I agree with every bit of this post. 90% honking is utterly useless. Indians love noise i suppose.

    1. Thanks, Ankita for your thoughts. Only an awareness about the noise pollution and its ill-effects will make roads quieter.

    2. people just do not bother, everyone seems to be in a hurry. Indians love noise and are every comfortable with it, be it all night 'jagratas' or ' marriage functions, Indians are cool about it usually. This attitude, I think, needs to change.

    3. I fully agree with you, Ankita -- people just seem to be comfortable with high-pitched noise.

  3. oh this is an issue that resonates with many many people i am sure. it is such a huge nuisance, seriously! you have listed out the reasons very well. i am sure most honkers have one or more of those 'problems'

  4. Thanks for the comment, Sujatha. :-)

  5. Well argued piece. Drivers in India honk unnecessarily. At the same time they don't honk when it is necessary - like while going through a blind curve, which could be of great help to oncoming motorists. There is one such curve near my house and many times for me it has been a near miss situation