A sound move | Daily News

A sound move

The law enforcement is to come down hard on motorists who sound their horns beyond the prescribed decibel levels, on the highways. This follows a decision taken by the Defence Ministry on a directive by the President who is also the Minister in charge on Environment. The regulation will come into force from July 1 leaving the motorists’ time to remove offending horns from the vehicles and also blinking lights. Henceforth, the sound issuing from vehicle horns should not exceed 105 decibel levels for a distance of two metres and not exceed 93 decibel levels for a seven metre stretch, DIG (Traffic) Ajith Rohana told a media briefing on Monday. Present at the briefing were all stake holders including representatives of Private Bus Associations. All Police stations, islandwide, have been told to crack down on the offenders after the deadline and the penalties will include fines and jail terms, DIG Rohana said.

The law against sound pollution is already in the statute books. According to the Police Department, if vehicles produce loud sounds disturbing the public it was a violation of section 160 clause No. 21 in the Act of 1981 and in clause No. 8 in the Act of 2009. Why, pray, has it failed to get cracking? Is the new enthusiasm to implement an already existing law also part and parcel of the new wave of crack downs against the narcotic business and the underworld?

Besides, there is vagueness surrounding the offenses. According to DIG Rohana, in the event of a person being killed due to an incident resulting from loud ‘horning’ a fine of between Rs.50,000 and 75,000 will be imposed in addition to a jail term of one year and suspension of the driving licence. How will it be determined that loud ‘horning’ caused the fatality? Are the now ubiquitous CCTV cameras equipped to pick up the decibel levels of vehicle horn sounds?

Blinking lights which adorn vehicles too are to be removed. While this is to be welcomed, however, more than this distraction, it is the powerful headlights of motor vehicles, momentarily blinding the motorists coming from the opposite direction, that cause accidents. If there are no laws, already, steps should be taken requiring motorists to use ‘dimmers’, to prevent the blinding flashes that is a serious impediment to oncoming vehicles. A majority of the motor vehicles are imported from countries where motorists have to contend with thick fog and hence the vehicles are fitted with piercing headlights. Hence the need for introducing restrictions in the volume of light of such vehicles, like the sound barrier on horns, if accidents are to be prevented.

It goes without saying that it is the private buses which are guilty of sound pollution in the most extreme forms. They not just blare away on the roads when overtaking rivals but also honk their horns as warnings to all vehicles before them causing much annoyance to all and sundry. If that is not enough, they go full throttle in raising the volume of their musical equipment to the extreme distress and discomfort of the passengers. Much was made by the Transport Ministry about banning loud music in private buses. However, the practice is still being carried out with gusto with no known arrests made or licences cancelled.

The DIG also said that only four categories of vehicles will be exempt from the ‘anti-blaring’ law namely ambulances, Fire Brigade, Police and Army vehicles and vehicles plying during emergency situations. He also added in response that politicians too will be subject to the law in this respect.

To all Lankan citizens familiar with the status quo, this statement by the DIG could only have evoked mirth. The DIG may have said so in all good faith. But who among his men will dare fling himself into the path of a speeding convoy carrying some political bigwig, with horns blaring and lights flashing, notwithstanding the protection afforded by the National Police Commission?

Be that as it may, not just noisy motorists, sound pollution in all its forms should be contained. Today, even most religious institutions are guilty of causing inconvenience, nay, torture with their day long ceremonies relayed at full volume. The problem has even extended to domestic residences which have been converted into ‘prayer halls’ of all religions. Sometime ago, the Supreme Court imposed a ban on ‘musical shows’ proceeding beyond a prescribed time limit in the night. However, like with everything else, the law is observed in the breach and things go on in their merry way.

In most Western countries, roads adjoining hospitals, Homes for the Aged and Children’s Homes etc. are designated ‘No Sound’ zones where motorists are banned from tooting their horns. Such restrictions should be imposed here as well.

Whatever be the shortcomings and belated implementation of the law, the move to rein in errant motorists who flaunt their gadgetry on the roads causing distraction and annoyance to the public is to be appreciated. The President, hopefully, will match his fresh initiative to contain sound pollution with the same elan he has shown towards eradicating the narcotics menace.


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