Taking the bull by the horns

By Frederick Mordi

Horn 2

 

In the early part of the 1900s, New York Mayor, George Brinton McClellan, Jr. reportedly owned the loudest car in the city. Having acquired the recently invented car horn, he wasted no time in letting New Yorkers know that his horn was the loudest in the City. The Mayor blared the horn so loudly that it nearly made people to jump out of their skin, whenever he drove past in his big car.

A smart American named Miller Reese Hutchison had invented the device in 1908 to solve traffic problems in New York City, which used to experience traffic jams similar to what often happens in Lagos. In those days, motorists used bells or horns adapted from musical gadgets, as warning devices. But these devices had little or no effect on pedestrians. Hutchison’s horn did the trick. Pedestrians started looking in the direction of oncoming vehicles, whenever drivers honked the loud horn Hutchinson invented.

On October 15, motorists observed a horn-free day for the first time in Lagos, the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria. The initiative was the idea of the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, who has been credited with transforming Lagos. However, unlike the New York Mayor, Fashola, is about the only top government official in Nigeria that does not use siren despite his status. The political class and the elite in the country are particularly notorious for intimidating hapless motorists with indiscriminate blaring of sirens and horns.

As is usual with change, some Lagosians complied with the horn-free day directive, while others did not. But most people welcomed the idea. Even the untamable commercial bus drivers, conformed to some degree, having been sufficiently sensitised by their union and state government officials. For good measure, some of the danfo drivers, reportedly disconnected their horns during the duration to avoid the temptation of using them, while other motorists who blew their horn did so instinctively, or when it became necessary.

Horn

 

Fashola had explained that the horn-free day was meant to sensitise residents to the harmful effects of noise pollution, which experts say is harmful to the health. Traffic is said to be the main source of noise pollution in urban centres. Scientists say high noise levels can contribute to cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, and increase in stress. They also say noise levels above 85 decibels (dB) could be potentially damaging if one is exposed to them over a long period of time.

Fashola added: “It is for our own good, it is for our own health, it is for our own life. It is not because Governor Fashola said so. It is not because Lagos State Government said so. It is simply because it is good for us. Doctors have told us it is for our own ultimate good.

“What we see in a way that we now choose to live is that because we live in a very noisy environment, which we can really diminish, we tend to be very noisy ourselves. We speak at the top of our voices, we play music at very high decibels and we do very many things at very high levels.”

He said the campaign against noise pollution became necessary following an avalanche of complaints that his government had been receiving from residents. Apart from reducing noise pollution, the horn-free day was designed to also improve lane discipline and minimise road rage.

Fashola

The government has expressed satisfaction with the level of compliance by Lagosians. The state’s Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, who monitored exercise in some parts of Lagos together with government officials, said motorists received the initiative, which is expected to be marked every other year, quite well.

In advanced countries, motorists seldom hoot their horns. While some people argue that the pitiable state of road infrastructure in Nigeria, the poor driving culture and the activities of law enforcement agents, often create a situation where motorists simply have to use their horns, nevertheless it will not be a bad idea if all begin to imbibe simple road courtesy.

Fashola appears to have taken the bull by the horns in this regard.

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2 responses to “Taking the bull by the horns”

  1. Shittu, Adebowale Mufutau says :

    It is a good begining and i hope we will sustain it.

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