The right and wrong of honking
This is a guide to proper and polite use of the automobile horn.
How often do you use your car horn? How often should we use them? Are there standards of etiquette that everyone should observe?
Yes! And here they are.
Car horns date back to the earliest horseless carriages in the 1800s.
Honking as an alert
The intended purpose of the car horn is to alert another driver to some condition on the road.
These are valid messages to communicate with the horn:
- "There's about to be a collision if we don't take action."
- "My car is malfunctioning and is not in my control. Beware."
- "The light is green now." Driver's Ed Guru says that we should give the driver in front of us four seconds before we decide that they haven't noticed the light. If we honk to get their attention, it should be a quick beep, not a long blast.
You should not use the horn to say:
- "Get out of my way; I don't feel like slowing down." Always take the first step in avoiding dangerous situations.
In his book, , Lennard Davis, a son of deaf parents, tells of how his mother was killed by a driver who probably assumed that she would get out of his way when he laid on the horn. My Sense of Silence: Memoirs of a Childhood with Deafness
"Your horn is not a substitute for your brakes."
Auto Club of New York
Honking to express anger
DO NOT DO THIS! Honking is often a precursor to road rage! You don't know the other drivers around you and you wouldn't want to do anything that makes them so angry they violate the terms of their parole.
It's OK to honk briefly to let someone know when their driving is about to cause a dangerous situation. But if the danger is past, do not honk just to suggest that they should re-enroll in driving school.
Also, according to Driver's Ed Guru, research has proven that horn honking has no effect on clearing traffic jams.
One way I try to avoid getting honked at is by showing the other driver that I know I just did something dumb.
When I'm in the wrong, I put my hand over my heart and mouth the words "I'm sorry" as they pass me.
Honking as a means of communication.
The only officially sanctioned use of the horn is as an alert. Whether it's appropriate in other situations is a matter of opinion.
- Some people disapprove of honking as a way to say, "I'm here to pick you up. You can come out now", but I think there are times when it needs to be done. Getting out of the car and going to the door seems simple, but it's not simple if you can't find a parking space or if you have a sleeping baby in the car.
- It can be distracting and a nuisance to other drivers if you use your horn to say, "Susie! Hi! What a coincidence that we're both driving down the same street at the same time!" Everyone else will be wondering if you were honking at them or if there's danger on the road. If Susie happens to see you, you can wave at her. Otherwise just tell her later, "I saw you driving down Avalon over by City Hall Tuesday morning."
- It is also confusing if you honk to say, "I'm demonstrating my love for Jesus, as requested by your bumper sticker." Even though the person's bumper is saying that they want you to honk, the driver is not actually thinking about their sticker every moment they're on the road. When you honk, they, just like anyone else, will wonder whether they did something wrong, whether they need to watch out for something, etc., before they figure out that you were just giving them a fellowship honk.
- On the other hand, honking to say, "I wish I could join you in your sidewalk protest, but I have to go to work right now," will be much better understood. The folks on the sidewalk are, indeed, thinking about their cause every moment that they're out there. So when you honk for nuclear disarmament or honk for a flat tax, they know right away what you're trying to say.
- And no, gentlemen, you should not honk to say, "You look incredible in that short skirt." Even if you figure she wants to be honked at, don't do it.
Instead of honking, some people suggest keeping a hand-made sign in your car that you can briefly hold up in your window to show another driver that you agree with their bumper sticker.
Horn etiquette links - These are some of the sites where I got information for this lens.
Legal case about honking!
In June 2009, an appellate court in Washington ruled that horn honking is not Constitutionally protected free speech.
What are honku?
Honku are haiku poems about honking
or about traffic in general.
Read all about it at Honku.org