Recently, there was discussion that the Union Transport Ministry is preparing to bring a law under which only the sounds of Indian musical instruments will be heard from the automobile horns.
Means, if the rule is implemented then the pleasant music of flute, tabla, violin, mouth organ and harmonium will be heard on the streets. In place of loud sirens from ambulances and police patrolling vehicles, there will be a mesmerizing tune heard, the signature tune of All India Radio which is played in the early morning.
While it sounds interesting, it is a strange idea, as the main function of the horn is to alert the surroundings, not entertain people who can turn around and forget that they have to move or give way to the vehicle coming behind. It is also a fact that the use of loud horns on highways and in cities has become so much that it makes the head dizzy. It is natural to have accidents when someone is driving at high speed with a loud horn.
There are 5 lakh road accidents in India every year, in which around 1.5 lakh people get killed and millions are injured. India loses three percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) due to the road accidents.
The Ministry of Road Transport, Nitin Gadkari is considering this problem only to reduce the stress caused by noise. There should be legal strictness also on those who play loud horns or make noise by honking unnecessarily. Constant awareness about this is also necessary. Experts warn that being exposed to noise above 93 decibels for eight hours can lead to hearing loss.
In addition to irritability, the noise of the horn can cause loss of hearing. In European countries, vehicle horn noise ranges from 87 to 112 decibels. In Australia and Canada, the limit for such noise is 104 decibels. Multi-tone horns are banned in many cities of Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, apart from Delhi NCR and Chandigarh.
Oliver Lucas of England had designed an electric car horn in 1910. Even today the horns of cars run on electricity. These are driven by a flat circular steel diaphragm on which the electromagnet acts in one direction, while a spring pulls it in the opposite direction. The diaphragm repeatedly interrupts the flow of the electromagnet, causing circuit breaks hundreds of times per second producing a loud buzzer or electric bell-like sound.
Car horns have a sound level of around 109 decibels and they typically draw five to six Amps of current. Have you noticed three words written on the back of trucks – Horn OK Please! This sight is common all over the country. No one knows what it means and who first started it.
One theory says that when there was a shortage of diesel during World War II, the trucks had to be run on kerosene. From the point of view of safety, it was necessary to keep distance between each other, so they wrote Horn OK Please. The second theory states that earlier trucks were monopolized by the Tata company. To promote ‘OK’, one of their detergent soaps, the trucks were marked with OK in capital letters in the middle of the Horn Please.
Writer is a senior journalist & columnist.