Mumbai traffic police introduce 'The Punishing Signal' to reduce honking

Mumbai: While the police forces in our cities are often at the receiving end of brickbats, particularly on social media, an ingenious campaign against excessive honking turned the tide in favour of the Mumbai Police, for at least a day. Called ‘The Punishing Signal’, the novel concept and its underlying humour hit all the right notes when it was unveiled on Friday.

In a bid to create awareness about honking responsibly, special decibel meters were installed at selected traffic junctions such as CSMT, Marine Drive, Pedder Road, Hindmata and Bandra, which are prone to heavy traffic and excessive honking by motorists.

To turn passive traffic signals at these locations to ‘punishing signals’, the decibel meters were wired to reset the red signal for another 90 seconds in case the noise level at the signal exceeded 85 decibels (dB). This was tested twice, for a few non-peak hours, in November and December last year.

In a video of the experiment released on social media by the Mumbai Police on Friday, in which Mumbai is called the ‘honking capital of the world’, motorists can be seen honking as soon as there are 20 seconds left for the red signal to turn green. When excessive honking raises the decibel level above 85 dB, an additional 90 seconds automatically kicks in for the halt signal. For the benefit of the flummoxed motorists, an electronic display board at the signal then displays the message `Honk More, Wait More’.

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“Honking is a bad habit and an act of traffic indiscipline. Unfortunately, many Mumbaikars indulge in reckless honking, which causes noise pollution, hurts the eardrums, increases heart rate, creates traffic confusion and causes stress. Unnecessary honking is a menace which everyone recognizes, but does little to curb. This small experiment is one of the many attempts by the Mumbai Police to create better road discipline. Hopefully, it will encourage Mumbaikars to honk less, and create a noise-free and stress-free commute,” said Joint Commissioner of Police, Traffic, Madhukar Pandey.

Pandey, however, clarified that the video released on Friday was only meant to create awareness, and the exercise will not come into play immediately. “We had conducted this exercise and received mild to mixed reactions, which is when we decided to release a video and create sufficient awareness among citizens, so that they know what unnecessary honking can lead to. This is an ongoing exercise that we will undertake randomly over the next couple of months until the citizens are aware about it, to avoid chaos,” added Pandey.

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Speaking about how the experiment played out at noisy traffic signals in the city, a senior traffic police officer said, “The unnecessary honking ultimately increased the decibel levels, turning the signal red for another 90 seconds.

This meant motorists had to wait longer at the signal, and were thus ‘punished’ for their impatience. Puzzled motorists looked around to figure out what was happening. If motorists don’t want to be delayed by an extra 90 seconds at a traffic signal, they should learn traffic discipline and refrain from honking unnecessarily.”

With the video getting significant traction on social media, some netizens pointed out the practical considerations involved in such an exercise, asking how an ambulance would be given space if traffic is held up at such a ‘punishing signal’.

“I agree that there is unnecessary honking at traffic signals. But one must also understand that I could be amid an emergency or be super late to an examination,” said Shreejeet Rane, a Human Resources Manager at JLL Infra.

Rohit Ohri, Group Chairman and CEO FCB Group, said, “We have been partnering Mumbai Police for many years now. Noise pollution is a big problem in our cities. This new initiative is a fantastic creative solution for bringing about awareness and a behaviour change amongst the drivers in Mumbai.”

Appreciating the campaign, Convenor of Awaaz Foundation, Sumaira Abdulali, said, “This is the first time the police have indicated willingness to take action, and it is a global first as we have not heard of such a thing anywhere in the world. I wholeheartedly congratulate the Mumbai Traffic Police for doing something concrete to make the city roads less noisy and eventually noise-free.”

Transport expert Ashok Datar, similarly, welcomed the move and said strict action against those honking without valid reason was long overdue. “It is a great initiative, and it will compel motorists to change their behaviour. Such kind of punishment should also be rolled out for other offences like overtaking from the leftand jumping signals; it will eventually force motorists to learn to obey the traffic signals. If traffic discipline is instilled at the price of congestion, let it happen,” Datar said.

In a bid to create awareness, the Mumbai Police’s traffic department collaborated with advertising agency FCB Interface to execute and