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You can’t turn a deaf ear to this din any longer

Deepa H Ramakrishnan

Photo: R.Shivaji Rao

Noisy affair: The decibel level at traffic jams could be dangerously high. —

CHENNAI: Not many motorists seem to follow the “no horn” rule in school and hospital zones, if the noise around these areas is any indication.

With roads becoming busier by the day, even interior roads and residential areas are not spared of zipping fast vehicles sounding loud horns.

A few years ago, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and the Transport Department conducted a drive to remove air horns but that was discontinued. “Such a drive is needed now as the number of vehicles have increased,” said G. Krishna, a commuter.

TNPCB District Environmental Engineer K. Karthikeyan said that loud horns had been banned and that it was up to vehicle drivers to understand that honking in a traffic jam would not help.

Horns of cars, buses and trucks range between 90 decibel and 110 decibel. The average noise level at traffic signals was 80-85 decibel and during a traffic jam it had gone up to 90 decibel. “Bulb horns (70 decibel) are less harmful. But many bus drivers do not seem to prefer them as they feel that only very loud horns would help,” he said.

Autorickshaw driver C. Rajasekar said,“I feel that horns are needed in crowded market places where pedestrians and cattle may walk on the roads and on roads where children might be playing. Drivers who overuse horns are not good at their work,” he said.

Health aspects

Consultant psychiatrist V. Jayanthini said that persons who are very sensitive to things like strong perfumes, lights, crowds, masala or even close personal contact would be very sensitive to loud horns as well. Many people get headaches and even palpitation at the sound of very loud horns.

Very loud noises could even cause pain in the ear. To mitigate the noise of continuous traffic, a popular hospital located near a major traffic junction in the city has installed an air curtain at its entrance. It has also used double layered glass in windows and doors facing the road to keep out the noise.

ENT Surgeon at Malar Hospital M.N.Shankar said that noise levels above 110 decibels will hurt the ears. The American Association of Hearing has set a threshold level of 85 decibels. “The government should not allow an increase in sound anywhere. They must take steps to reduce noise levels of horns. The Supreme Court has permitted noise levels of up to 110 decibels for election campaigns but that is not advisable.”

Amidst all the noise, there are a few who do not use the horn at all. P. Venkatesan, who has been driving for 32 years now, says he has never used a horn in his vehicle. “If there is a traffic jam, we have to wait for other vehicles in front to move. There is no use getting impatient and sounding the horn.”

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