In defence of honking

Let me at the outset say that I am as against noise pollution as other concerned souls like Huda Masood and Bala Venkata. Heck, I don’t even listen to loud music.

But on the roads, it’s another story. I have been riding/driving on the roads for many many years. Traffic has obviously increased. And conversely road sense has decreased.

A while back, I was driving at a sedate pace . A man was closing a conversation with his friend and walking away. He continued walking right into my path, still looking back at his friend. I hadn’t honked since I expected to look away and into where he was walking. My mistake. Luckily neither of us got hurt when my bike dashed into him, mildly.

Ten days back, I was driving past a parked bus on my left. A man crossed the road in front of the bus, and was concentrating on the oncoming traffic. There was no way I could have seen him (the bus stop in front of Krupanidhi college, Madivala, is on a curve.). I honked and braked too late. I skidded and sprawled right in front of the car coming in the opposite direction. Luckily the car driver swerved away; My helmet and a large dose of luck ensured I got away with just a few painful scrapes. Managed to ride straight to a nearby clinic, get a TT shot and dressings on my wounds.

My knee still hurts. I am less particular about not honking now.

I honk to tell the auto driver in front, don’t swerve suddenly, I am behind you. I honk to tell the passenger hanging on the bus footboard, look out and don’t jump on me. I honk to tell the driver behind me, see my hand stretched right and my indicator on, I am actually turning right, don’t try to overtake from my right.

I honk to tell the girls talking and giggling and walking across the road, talk later, look at the oncoming traffic and wait for me to go before you cross. I honk to tell the cyclist, I am there in the same lane, don’t suddenly swerve into my path. I honk on a dark road, to tell pedestrians, look out, move to the edge of the road. 

I honk to tell bus drivers, pull out slowly from the bus stand, I am overtaking you on your right. I honk to warn car drivers, check the oncoming traffic and get out of the driver’s seat. I honk to plead with commuters on a bus, please do not lean out and spit, I am driving past. 

I honk to assert my identity as a bike rider.

About Meera K 32 Articles
Meera K is Co-founder, Citizen Matters.

6 Comments

  1. While honking is a communication mechanism for avoiding accidents on the road, people in India overuse it for the lack of proper etiquette being followed on the road. While your arguments sound valid, you need to think beyond honking to avoid the problems that you faced. I for one, had to drive without my horn for more than 2 months because the spare horn was not available with my car maker. And what I realized was that horn is just a cretch that we overuse. I became very conscious of the movement of all the vehicles and pedestrians on the road and I even had to shout at times necking my head out. I became a very cautious driver overnight. Though I fixed the horn, I still drive very cautiously and use the horn sparingly. In fact my cycle doesn’t have a bell as well – again I am very defensive on the road while riding it because of that. So IMO, you don’t really need to honk to communicate – you need to be aware and drive defensively and in my experience it is definitely possible even on Bangalore roads! Defensive honking is a poor alternative to defensive driving IMO.

  2. This is a country where there will be always two (or more)opinions on any matter that affects public behaviour.As a friend told me “even if someone beat up his old mother there will opinions voiced for and against.Sensible use of horn is necessary, that is the reason the automakers provide one such standard accessory.The decision to retrofit a 120dB air compressor assisted musical horn depends on his mental make up,his wallet and his idea of being heard ( and seen).The guy living in a multilevel apartment complex when driving out honks to say “bye” to his not so newly married wife and also warn the security to open the gate.In the evening when another guy returns he honks wild just to scare away the children playing on the drive way ( including his own).Then the children wants to play shuttle cock on the asphalted drive way since the court is wet with the previous nights rain.I don’t have to be research scholar to what such people will do with the horn on “public” road.
    Politeness,obeying traffic rules,showing courtesy to pedestrains and other road users does not come from education or literacy.It comes from how the parents brought him/her.

  3. I agree as well, honking is necessary most of the times.

    But then there are different ways of honking 🙂
    There’s a ‘polite honk’ (intermittent short bursts 2-3 times) which is usually used to acknowledge a vehicles presence.

    Then there’s a ‘long an continous’ honk, the most annoying one. I’ve seen them being used in mainly two situations.
    1. By buses and trucks as a sign of arrogance 😛
    2. In panic situations which implies ‘move or we both are gonna die!’ 🙂

  4. Honking is irritating. Mindless honking does reduce our sensitivity for honks, even if legitimate.

    However, I am in complete agreement with the author. Honk but once or twice till you get a indication that other person has taken notice, to announce your presence, your motive and when in doubt of incoming traffic, people or animals, Honk. It is a safety procedure for you and for others.

    Allergic to sound, and sometimes mindless honking, there is a good and bad side to everything.

  5. Western etiquette does need to be adapted to local conditions. Nice post. Of course it is very rude to honk in an impatient make-way-for-my-flashy-new-vehicle manner but it is very much called for when a driver or pedestrian is at risk.
    The bigger problem is that upwardly mobile Indians ignore the capacity of Indian roads and blissfully aspire to move on from Santro to Scorpio to Lexus. It is ludicrous to see an Innova crawling along a 15 ft strip of road with vegetable/fruit/flower vendors and purchasers on either side. And then, such drivers have the temerity to honk!

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