When should you honk?
I was traveling along one of our busy roads the other day and happened to hear a few drivers honking at other drivers. I was a little curious as to the reasons why these drivers decided they needed to honk. The danger had already passed in one situation, so why honk? What’s the purpose in honking at someone anyway? I always teach my students at Young Drivers of Canada that honking should be done early, to warn people. It shouldn’t be used as a cursing tool, should it?
Traffic was quite heavy one day and there was an unusually long line of vehicles stopped at a red light. One thing that we have to remember is that even though the traffic lights may have changed to green, it takes time for all of the drivers ahead of you to begin to move. Honking at the drivers won’t make them move any sooner. It usually gets them more aggravated with you though. Honking at the driver directly in front of you doesn’t make them move any quicker if they have a driver in front of them. Patience is required here folks!
Can you believe that in some places you can get a traffic ticket if you use your horn when it’s not an emergency? I was reading an article that stated, in Seattle, if you honk at a driver who may not be moving you can receive a traffic ticket. The driver may have gone into “daydream mode” and may not have seen the traffic lights change to green. Too bad for you I guess. You’ll have to sit there patiently waiting for the driver to begin moving, but no honking at them this time!
So, when should you honk? Honk if you need to make eye contact with another road user. This would be important if that person was about to enter your traffic flow when it wasn’t safe to do so. Honk early enough to give that person enough time to see you and respond safely. If you honk late, it could cause this pedestrian, cyclist or driver to be startled. They may still enter your path in that case. Honking early also means you’ll have time to honk twice, or more, to ensure the message has been received. Don’t assume that since you honked at someone that they understand the message. When you honk at someone, always ensure the correct response was made. In other words, they have either stopped their progress or at least have looked toward your direction.
A couple of light taps of the horn is a polite way to get someone’s attention. I teach this to my students as well. For example, to let another driver know I’m letting them into my lane of traffic after they’ve signaled, I lightly tap the horn twice as I slow down slightly. These are the same type of taps you use when you notice a neighbour or friend as you’re driving along and you want their attention. A long blaring horn usually means you’re unhappy with their decision, so a light tap works better. It’s also a nice way to meet new people!
I made the error once of honking when I didn’t mean to. The driver in front of me looked my way after I mistakenly honked while still sitting at a red light, so I quickly waved to them. I don’t think they knew what was going on, but they waved back to me anyway. This just proved that honking can be a positive experience, even if you do it incorrectly.
The other thing to keep in mind is remembering that no matter how much you honk to show your displeasure, it doesn’t help the situation. So why do drivers continue to do it? Let me give this challenge to you; avoid honking in anger. Politely tap the horn with two quick taps if you need to warn someone or to make them notice something. During the other times, be patient. You never really know why drivers do certain things. Who know, it may even help you reduce your own stress!