Beautiful Vietnam
Honking me crazy
  • | | March 04, 2010 08:59 AM

The misuse, overuse, and abuse of honking horns is enough to enrage the most passive of people. Traffic in Hanoi is thick, it\'s heavy, it\'s congested, it\'s sometimes ridiculous. There is little that can be done about the amount of people on the roads, but there is something that can be done to practise some simple road etiquette.

Over-honking isn\'t only annoying, it\'s dangerous.

Drivers that drive with their hand on the horn at all times, whether stopped, crawling, or driving dangerously fast through traffic; are deafening, distracting, and dangerous. They are defeating the purpose of the horn. A simple tap of the horn is a way to let drivers (particularly those on motorbikes) know that you are approaching, warn them, and to avoid accidents. Holding a horn down incessantly is a dangerous way to make another driver take their eyes off the road and place them on you. When there is no place to go, there is no reason to honk. Blowing your horn is not going to magically make the road empty. The duration of a honk is a misunderstood aspect of driving manners. A simple, light, tap of the horn is usually more than enough to suffice. Blasting a horn at full decibel for 30 seconds is rude, very rarely necessary, and extremely dangerous.

It may sound silly, but there is a serious noise pollution problem in Hanoi. The wild and careless use of horns has become a hazard. There is so much reckless-honking, the safety purposes of the horn are being lost, and the noise on the streets never stops. Some people drive with the horn on when there isn\'t even another vehicle in sight, others use it when there is clearly nowhere to go.

Vietnam has echoing horns, music horns, air-horns, every type of horn you can imagine and too many drivers that are too horn-happy. There is an increasing trend for people to install air-horns (designed for 18-wheeler trucks) on motorbikes and taxis as if the louder your horn is, the safer you are. That is wrong. These horns are a danger as they can shock and frighten a driver, leading to accidents. There is no law, no rule, no guidelines to using a horn other than common sense. Generally, a horn is designed to warn or alert another driver on the road. In Vietnam, some drivers think that they have to keep their horn on at all times. I think some might even treat it like music from the radio.

Please; lay off the horn!

I\'m not sure about the psychology behind horn-blowing in Vietnam as I\'m not from here, but I have driven with enough people to know that most sensible drivers in Vietnam agree; there is simply too much honking on the streets. Vietnamese or foreign, it makes no difference because it makes no sense to always use a horn. Horns should be used sparingly. Horns might now be more of a nuisance than a help. They have become so overused, that most people just block the sound out as best they can. People don\'t even bother to glance when a horn blasts in their ears because that is all they ever hear. Drivers are getting so used to useless honking that they don\'t even acknowledge or react when they hear the sound.

Some simple steps towards courteous driving should be mandatory no matter where you are from. Driving is a privilege and there is a duty to be safe. The U.S. state department warns foreign visitors to use caution when coming to Vietnam, describing the traffic as, "Chaotic. Traffic accidents occur frequently and the most common victims are motorbike riders and pedestrians. At least 30 people die every day from transportation-related injuries. Traffic accidents are the single greatest health and safety risk in Vietnam."

This is no laughing matter. If horns are used to alert drivers and to make driving safer, there is a serious threat to their effectiveness. That threat is overuse. Because horns have become so wildly used, most people simply ignore the sounds. They are losing their meaning.

There is very little a traffic officer can do to help this situation. Chasing someone by foot with a white baton in hand is not going to make people more conscious about their horn use. It would be necessary to post signs and to create a code of standards for horn use and really, it\'s up to drivers to use their horn\'s appropriately. I have been informed that drivers in Vietnam must pass a traffic test in order to get a license, so somewhere in that traffic test, and in the study materials for it, there should be a guideline for using the horn.

The Asian Injury Organisation states, "In Vietnam and Cambodia alone, the amount of motorized vehicles increased more than 17% between 2007 and 2008. This increase outstrips the ability of society to adapt, infrastructure to compensate, and systems to support the increasing traffic volume. With only 16% of the world’s motor vehicles, the region bears 44% of global road traffic accident fatalities."

Clearly the traffic isn\'t going to disappear, so these things need to be taken seriously. There has to be a civilised way to approach dealing with the traffic density here and the horn is not the answer.

Along with other serious threats to drivers on the road, such as an insufficient amount of traffic lights, a blatant disregard for those that are up, and reckless motorists on mobile phones; honking should be considered a safety hazard if used inappropriately. If drivers are always on the horn, then what warning can they give when it is actually needed? The entire purpose and effectiveness of the horn is depleted.

The amount of horn noise on the streets puts actual emergencies or needs in jeopardy. I have witnessed a motorcyclist lying on the ground with his bike wrecked, and the truck behind him was just blasting the horn. What help is this? The man was in serious need of medical attention, there was nowhere for the truck to go, and this man was just blasting his horn. It only made the situation more chaotic.

A horn is not a siren and shouldn\'t be used as one. An emergency vehicle uses a siren because it is needed, not because traffic isn\'t moving. Venting frustrations through a horn is dangerous and irresponsible.

There are so many things that drivers cannot control, but there are a few we can. We can wear helmets, we can wear seat-belts, we can use caution, we can obey traffic lights and laws, and we can use a horn only when it is necessary. Horns could save lives, but it\'s like the boy who cries wolf, the more we honk, the less likely it will be effective when we actually need it. Give ears and drivers a break, lay off the horn.

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