Honk if you can bear it

The in basket:  I was talking recently with a local doctor who had been to France this summer and had previously lived in Boston. After we shared our mutual appreciation for the effectiveness of roundabouts, he had an observation.

Driving around here would be safer if we Northwesterners would get over our aversion to honking our vehicles’ horns, he said.

Beeping at other drivers is a common practice in Boston and France, he said, and is as common as using your turn signal. He didn’t mean laying on your horn, just tapping it to say, “I’m here next to you.”

In the Northwest, it’s taken either as an insult or a provocation, he said.

The out basket: It don’t know how many of you have seen the movie “Waitress,” but the main character’s brute of a husband always announced his arrival at wherever she was with three blasts of his car horn. It was very annoying.

And I must admit to suffering from the very aversion the doctor mentioned. I’m even reluctant to use my horn to acknowledge someone or say hi. I do honk if the driver ahead of me doesn’t respond to the light turning green, and is looking sideways.

I do so despite knowing that there is a law against it. Our state law says “The driver of a motor vehicle shall when reasonably necessary to insure safe operation give audible warning with his or her horn but shall not otherwise use such horn when upon a highway.” The fine is $124 in the off chance one gets cited for not complying.

The doctor said his suggestion fits comfortably within that safe-operation guideline, broadly defined.

I have no illusions about the Road Warrior column’s  ability to overcome this ingrained societal aversion to honking. But I’m curious as to how far east one must go before horn honking is customary. I associate it with East Coast cab drivers.

I’m hoping to mine the collective experiences of you readers about this phenomenon. Drop a comment below or send me an e-mail if you have something to say.

8 thoughts on “Honk if you can bear it

  1. Well, that’s easy. I honk when the person ahead of me in line doesn’t move when the light turns green. How else can they become aware the light changed and they didn’t?

    Is it better that we get out of our car and walk up to the driver’s side of the car ahead, tap on their window, point to the green light and ask them to move?

    Otherwise, I’m not a honker.
    I didn’t know a honk to alert the car ahead that the red light has changed to green is against the law. If so, it is a stupid law and I don’t believe anyone would give us a ticket for helping keep traffic flowing.
    I’ve been wrong before…

  2. I think if you got a ticket for honking at a driving not responding to a green light, one could resonable argue that sitting idling in what should be free moving lane of traffic is not safe operation of their motor vehicle. What do you think?

    Since i started frequently using the round-a-bouts in Gig Harbor, I have quickly overcome my honking adversion. I will always honk at lane drifters or people that cut over when they realize they are in the wrong lane. I like round-a-bouts, but since they are not to common, the cities that choose to use them should be held liable to make sure the lane markings are kept highly visible. They are getting hard to see on Burnham Dr.

  3. I’ll use my horn to wake someone up in front of me who is busy texting when the light turns green, to avoid a collision, or to catch someone’s attention to wave to. These are polite taps, not a long blast. Similar to typing e-mails – no caps unless it’s really warranted. The no-horn law is ridiculous – kinda like the “Keep right except to pass” law posted on multi-lane highways. Use it when you need it.

  4. I use my horn when I see someone stomping on it to run through a very solid red light. Happens all the time at Oyster Bay and Kitsap Way and National and Kitsap Way. It makes most of the other drivers pause and look instead of just going because their light is green. They can be pissed at me for laying on the horn, but they would be more pissed if they got T-boned.

  5. I gave a little honk to a lady today who pulled out in front of me, but not the guy that was creeping up Bucklin Hill Rd at 15 mph. It’s about safety not just your annoyance. Although I swear I will never get used to this ‘no rush let everyone pass and drive 55 in the left hand lane’ mentality west coasters seem to have. I’m a native Bostoner and have lived up and down the eastern coast. I’d still rather drive 80 bumper to bumper than get behind 15 people that can’t bloody merge in Bremerton.
    By the way the law says “shall not otherwise use such horn when upon a highway” – there are no stoplights on the highway. So it’s perfectly legal to remind some lookie-loo that they are driving not sight-seeing when they don’t go at the green.

  6. I was twice provoked to a long blast – once by a woman who sat so far back in the left turn lane from Warren onto Burwell that the sensor ignored her for 4 complete cycles of the signa – but it didn’t do any good. She just sat there smugly while a long line of drivers behind her fumed. It felt too dangerous for me to get out of the car there. Eventually a pedestrian in the crosswalk told her to pull forward.

    Back in the old days when we had a Manette Bridge, I was turning left from the bridge on the Manette side when an oncoming driver chose to ignore the sign warning that traffic from the bridge does not stop and drove straight at me. Being already into the turn, I leaned on my horn to wake the driver up. Luckily that time it worked.

  7. In my 40 years of driving in the Northwest, my take on using the horn is that it is considered rude. I use it as a “wake up call” when necessary, but I otherwise avoid it.

    I find it far more useful to use a turn signal in a roundabout, letting others that want to enter the intersection know my intentions. Seems like only common sense to me, but then that is from experience. just me.

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