Tooting your own horn

Do you drive a motor vehicle? 

Does it feature a working horn? 

Where I live, I have the opportunity to hear the sound of vehicle horns regularly. I also drive a car with a working horn (yes, I’ve had at least one without). Subsequently, I’ve given this matter a certain, perhaps undue, amount of thought, and here is a list of times I feel horn use is and isn’t appropriate:

  • The Golden Rule of horn use is this: If an opportunity arises to use a horn, but using the vehicle’s brakes would accomplish the same thing, it’s always better to use the brakes.
  • When directly behind a vehicle stopped more than a couple of seconds at a newly green traffic light, and it’s obvious the driver isn’t waiting to make a left, or is otherwise having real trouble, an abbreviated, friendly toot can be a kindness both to the daydreaming / distracted driver ahead, and others waiting behind.
  • Any sounding of the horn longer than one second, in any circumstance, is excessive. These are practically always done in anger. I strongly feel that the driver of a vehicle should not allow anger to rise. Yet it happens – we are human. There are much more effective ways of dealing with this, both in the moment, and in general. Making a scene only reveals your temper to the world.
  • Do you sound the horn upon seeing someone you recognize? That’s not my style, but I see little wrong with it, aside from noise pollution.
  • Do you sound the horn outside the home of someone you are picking up, so that they will know you have arrived? If the home in question has parking, park the car and walk to the door. If not, you are probably blocking the roadway in some fashion while you wait, and there is usually a better way to alert your passenger. In both scenarios, you are making unnecessary noise in a residential area.
  • Do you sound two or three quick toots when leaving the home of someone you just visited? Congratulations, you are eligible for Social Security. Please save some for me.
  • When driving through a tunnel with no other vehicles in view, do you roll down the windows, and sound the horn? So do I.


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