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'Honk more, wait more': Mumbai tests traffic lights that reward the patient driver

There is a truth universally acknowledged by drivers in India: honk your horn loud enough and the traffic lights will surely change to green.

But, fed up of impatient drivers inflicting a deafening roar every time they are forced to stop, police in Mumbai have come up with a new system to punish those who cannot wait at traffic lights in silence.

The new system, said the police, was quite simple: “Honk more, wait more.”

Known as “the punishing signal”, Mumbai police installed a rigged traffic light system to tackle the problem of “reckless honkers”, which resets the red traffic signal every time the sound of car horns goes above 85 decibels. For particularly honk-happy drivers, it could mean a very long wait at the lights.

In a video, which has since gone viral, Mumbai police explained why they had been driven to tackle Mumbai’s cacophony of car horns.

“Welcome to the honking capital of the world,” said Mumbai police. “People here honk even when the signal is red. Maybe they think they will turn the signal green faster. We, the Mumbai police, were itching to do something about this.”

Mumbai was recently ranked as the fourth most congested city in the world, according to the TomTom traffic index, with 65% congestion and drivers spending an average of eight days and 17 hours in traffic each year.

Speaking to local media, Mumbai traffic police commissioner Madhukar Pandey said: “Sadly, many Mumbaikars indulge in reckless honking which not only causes noise pollution, but hurts eardrums, increases heart rate, causes stress and adds to traffic chaos.”

He added:“All recognise it, but do little to curb it. With this, hopefully we may create better road discipline and ensure honk-less, noise-free and stress-free travel on Mumbai roads.”

The idea, which was trialled in November and December, has already gained momentum and there is talk of rolling it out in other cities in India. Across the country, Indian cities have the worst traffic in the world. Bangalore was recently named as the world’s most congested city, with drivers spending an average of 10 days stuck in traffic, while both Delhi and Pune were also in the top 10.