Car horn ban ill-conceived

By Chen Xiaoru Source:Global Times Published: 2013-10-15 18:03:01

Illustration: Lu Ting/GT

Illustration: Lu Ting/GT

Transport authorities revealed at a recent forum that Shanghai is going to expand its ban on car horns to encompass a larger area, which does not sound like a promising rule that will effectively control noise pollution.

Shanghai introduced its first horn honking prohibition in June 2007. The ban was introduced to reduce traffic noise, a major complaint of downtown residents.

Although traffic authorities ruled that a driver caught honking their car horn inside the outer-ring road would be fined 100 yuan ($16.38), stand on any downtown street and hardly a minute passes without a horn sounding off. And I have never heard of or seen anyone getting fined for breaking the rule.

However, the poorly enforced ban is now going to be enlarged to some areas outside the outer-ring road, including by airports, subway stations, and the intersections of major roads.

I really give my sympathy to the city's drivers, and I do not blame them for honking horns given the city's chaotic traffic conditions.

There are so many scooters, registered and not, ignoring traffic lights as they shuttle around on car lanes and sidewalks; jaywalking happens often, especially during the morning and evening rush hours. It is just too dangerous for drivers to not use their horn when an emergency situation occurs.

And there are also non-emergency situations when drivers honk the horn to signal to each other. For example, a friend told me that he fell asleep once waiting for a long red light to turn green, and was only notified and woken up when the driver in the car behind blasted the horn.

I can understand that the authority introduced the ban for the good of the residents, schools, and hospitals that are constantly disturbed by the traffic noise. But it is a little foolish to not stand in the shoes of drivers and consider whether the ban is really going to work.

Instead of the ban, I think there are several things that can be done to reduce traffic noise and are easier to be achieved.

The government could improve the infrastructure, and use noise proof or noise absorbing materials to build hospitals, schools, and residential compounds.

There should be more stringent regulations on scooters, requiring drivers to be registered and have an understanding of the rules of the road. That will do a lot to improve the overall traffic order in the city.

And I suggest the government restrict the car horn ban to areas around hospitals, schools and residential neighborhoods because these places are where people really need a quiet environment. A smaller zone will make the restriction easier to enforce.

It is unrealistic to expect people to respect and obey a rule if it is not carefully pondered before being carried out. It will only undermine the authority of the government agency and make people feel less inclined to abide by the next rule the authorities introduce.

Posted in: TwoCents

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