Horn Honking Etiquette
When is it appropriate to use your horn? Generally, you should only honk the horn when reasonably necessary to insure safe driving. For example, if your brakes have gone out, honk to alert other drivers.
Use your horn to promote safe driving
However, there are times when it is common and acceptable to use your horn when there’s no immediate threat of a crash. Keep in mind that there is a big difference between giving a quick “beep” and laying on your horn with an obnoxious “BEEEEEEEEEEP”. For example, if the driver in front of you at a red light is not paying attention when the light changes to green, wait at least 4 seconds and then give a light, quick tap on the horn.
If another driver is driving too close to the lane line or almost hits you, it is appropriate to give a quick “beep” to let them know that they made a driving error and need to be more cautious. A quick honk of the horn can mean “Watch what you’re doing!”
Don’t use your horn to vent frustration
Your horn is not a way for you to tell another driver you don’t like their driving. If someone’s driving creates an ongoing danger, call the police. Never lay on your horn out of frustration with another driver.
Many instances of road rage begin with aggressive horn honking. You never know another driver’s state of mind, the kind of day they’re having, or how they’ll react to your blaring horn. Your safety is the top priority, so be calm when driving. If you must honk your horn at someone, do it lightly. Also, do not yell, mouth words, or use hand gestures to show your anger.
Don’t use your horn to ask “What’s Happening?”
Do not honk at your friends because this could alarm other drivers. You may startle another driver into slamming on their brakes, aborting their turn, or performing some other dangerous maneuver. Your horn is not a way to say “Hey” as you drive past your friends.
No, your horn cannot magically clear a traffic jam
If you’re stuck in a traffic jam, don’t honk. It isn’t going to make the situation any better; in fact, it will make it worse for everyone around you. Unless you are in a parade or stuck in a parking garage after your favorite baseball team just won the World Series, you should never lay on your horn in traffic.
Honking is sometimes against the law
In some cities, honking your horn between certain hours is against the law. I don’t think anyone will miss the neighborhood carpool mom honking at 6:00 a.m. to get the kids outside. You don’t have to worry about breaking the law if you use your horn only when absolutely necessary. Not wanting to get out of the car and ring the doorbell is not grounds for using your horn.
Honk if you’re …
Honking does not always pertain to alerting other drivers. Honking has become a way of showing support. For example, some people honk when they drive past students having car wash fund raisers. In Detroit, a U.S. District Judge ruled that not allowing “honking for peace” in anti-war demonstrations would be against the First Amendment.
The bottom line is to refrain from immediately reacting to a driver’s “wrong” move by laying on your horn or even giving a quick beep. People make mistakes and sometimes you need to just let it go rather than using your horn to vent. The simple rule: only use your horn when necessary.
When practicing with your teen, watch how he or she reacts when other drivers make mistakes. Discuss why honking would or would not have been appropriate for each situation.