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To Curb the Honking, Mumbai’s 'Punishing Signal'

Incessant honking just adds to the chaos on city streets, so Mumbai police put up a clever device to remind drivers that making noise will not ease traffic woes.
February 20, 2020, 5am PST | Camille Fink
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Christian Croft

Mumbai roadways are already scenes of mayhem and disorder, and drivers honk almost as a reflex. "In this world, the car horn is a survival tool, and a weapon. People use them constantly — to berate, to warn, and especially to get sluggish drivers to move," writes Jeffrey Gettleman.

Mumbai police decided to take matters into their own hands by rigging up devices at intersections that measured decibel levels and kept lights red if the honking noise was too excessive. And they filmed the experiment.

"The video shows people getting out of cars with confused looks on their faces, some yelling at each other to stop hitting the horns, kids on the sidewalk cracking up and cops exchanging a happy hand slap," says Gettleman.

After this trial run, city officials are considering expanding the program to other parts of Mumbai, adds Gettleman. "Indians in every corner of the country are laughing about it; officials in several other places now want to rig their traffic lights with honking meters, too."

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Published on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 in The New York Times
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