Friday, June 29, 2007

Banned from honking, Shanghai drivers switch to music, voice recordings

SHANGHAI, China (AP) - Banned from honking their horns, drivers in China's commercial hub Shanghai are switching to music or voice recordings to make themselves heard, a local newspaper reported Wednesday.

Shanghai banned honking in the downtown area beginning this month, threatening fines for those leaning on the horn. Not even police cars are exempt, with the use of sirens banned in all but emergencies, the rules say.

Yet some drivers who still feel the need to express themselves are spending the equivalent of about C$100 for customized horns, the Shanghai Daily newspaper said.

It said at least one taxi driver has converted his to a recording of a woman's voice saying: "Please mind the car, we are making a turn."

Other horns play music, similar to a personalized cellphone ring tone.

Police say all forms of honking are banned but have yet to crack down on personalized horns, the paper said.

"The new rule covers any kind of horn blaring, no matter what it sounds like," it quoted traffic police spokesman Sun Guofu saying.

Street noise is a major issue in Shanghai, where much of the 20 million population is packed into the old downtown of 19th-century tenement housing and narrow streets and a construction boom also pumps up decibel levels.

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