Are we like this only?

Understanding (and shaping) India

Why do people in Mumbai honk excessively?

Horn OK PleaseIn Mumbai and most parts of India, it is considered by some to be mandatory to horn. You horn to show your annoyance,  or to indicate to the person ahead to get out of your way or to generally announce your presence.  Most trucks have a sign painted on their rear that says “Horn OK Please”, basically instructing the vehicle behind to let the truck driver that you are behind them by horning.

It is worth thinking about the effect this horning has on other drivers and pedestrians. How often do you get out of the way when someone blares their horn at you? Not so often, right? And with the realization that no one is making room for you just because you honk, we would expect that man being a thinking animal, would learn that this behaviour does not yield any reward. So why do drivers persist with blaring their horn at the slightest excuse?

For one, it is not considered a serious offense to horn. The biggest response it elicits is a frown of irritation or a quick rebuke. How about doing what they did in Thailand? They made horning illegal. And it worked. I was surprised when on a previous trip to Bangkok (a city not so different from Mumbai), my taxi driver giggled when the person in front of me cut him off instead of blaring his horn at him.

But making something illegal does not mean that people will stop doing it. It is illegal to horn in “No horn” zones in Mumbai but that does not stop anyone. The reason is simple. There is no enforcement of the law. The traffic police are understaffed and underpaid. They are unlikely to waste their time on horn offenders when there are bigger fish to fry, for instance they have a greater incentive to catch no parking violators than those who horn in a no horning zone.

One idea is to have each horn installed with a simple counter that counts the number of times you blare you horn. If you exceed your daily quota, the horn automatically switches off and turns back on only the next day. Though great in theory, it could lead to accidents when horning was really warranted.

To solve this problem, one can start a market where people can buy and sell noise credits much like a carbon credit system. If you have exceeded your horn quota you can recharge by buying noise credits from people who have not used up their noise credits (SMS BUY 10 CR to 55555).

If you rarely honk, you can sell your saved up horn credits to others who have exceeded their quota.  This can act as a great way where by the market forces will end up regulating the amount of noise pollution. May be the saved noise credits can be used for people who want to have their party extend beyond 10 pm or by the local Ganeshutsav pandal, who want their music above a certain decibel level. This can greatly incentivise people to not horn since they will be rewarded for their good behaviour.

Any takers?


January 19, 2010 - Posted by | honking, incentives, india, noise pollution


  1. better planning of lay out of roads, crossings, interlays, better traffic system, highways, mainroads, side roads, better timing of traffic lights — decreases honking.

    enforce traffic laws. penalise offenders for breaking them.
    i support honking. surprised ?

    honking is required to alert the person who does not follow the law. – hence honking. how can i stop the person who is busy texting and slowly plonking into my car. it will be too late for me to get out at a traffic signal and knock on his window. isn’t it ? how do i alert the person to stop mindlessly staring at the hot girl passing by and start moving when the green signal comes on.

    what kind of assignments does transportation engineering students take after they finish school ?

    Comment by anrosh | May 2, 2010 | Reply

  2. Albert Einstein has been quoted as saying: “The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.” Why then do drivers honk their horns when the traffic around them has reached its usual and inevitable daily state of saturated gridlock? Do they honk their horns to invoke the great automotive god of traffic control to transcend the saturation that results when too many cars try to travels an inadequate expanse of road?. Do they think the irritation of a constant barrage of noise will somehow stimulate motorists more intelligent than themselves to devise a workable solution to the gridlock? One that will prevail however many more cars enter the streets in the years to come? Perhaps these frustrated motorists have long since given up on philosophy and merely hope that their horns will somehow subdue or eliminate those other selfish motorists less worth thank themselves to occupy the city streets?

    Comment by John Murray | February 11, 2014 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: