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To use the horn or not to use the horn?

So, my husband and I have an ongoing disagreement: he never, ever uses the horn – he insists that its only use is to annoy other people or to express that you’re ticked off at them or get them to move when they’re, say, stopped at a green light. I say that while what he says is often true (and I’ve done the latter on occasion), in certain circumstances, such as if someone’s about to hit you because they don’t realize you’re there, it’s absolutely a necessary safety device…not that that matters to him since when something like that happens, he never even thinks of hitting the horn – he’s focused on avoiding the idiot – while my instinct is to both do my best to avoid the collision AND to alert the other driver that I’m there.

I do see his side of it and I agree that probably 90% of the time horns are used unnecessarily; I just think that sometimes it is appropriate to blow your horn (and not just because you’re annoyed that someone’s driving like an idiot). Naturally, this discussion recurs every time I get pissed off because we almost got hit and he wouldn’t blow the horn (like a couple weeks ago when we almost got T-boned by some moron running a red light).


I agree with you. I appreciate having a driver warn me or even wake me up if I don’t see the light change. When I was a teenager, a working horn was an absolute necessity for signaling friends.
The only vehicles which should not have horns are school buses. Our bus driver would blast the horn to let us know he was there if we weren’t out at the stop. My mother would then push me out the door. I would have rather the driver just drove on without blasting the horn and I would have had a vacation day from school.

Before cell phones, maybe don’t use it. With cell phones in constant use, maybe you will wake somebody up in time to help. Don’t use it in downtown San Francisco, nobody will notice. The pedestrians are sometimes hostile there. Fun, fun, fun even after daddy took the T-Bird away.

As a motorcyclist, I use my horn often. If I am approaching an intersection or driveway where I fear someone might pull out in front of me, I make sure my turn signal is off and place my thumb on the horn button. If the vehicle’s wheels move [i]at all[/i] as I approach the intersection, I press the horn. However, when he is driving the car, let him drive the darn car. He doesn’t need a backseat (or sideseat) driver telling him how to drive the car, just as you should be free to do the things that you think maximize your safety. Your car has one set of controls for a reason, and that is that only one person can drive the car at a time. Let him drive his way, and you drive your way. You will both be happier for it.

I think the appropriate thing to do can be different in different situations. If I can do something to actively avoid an accident, I will not use my horn. I believe in some (many) situations, sounding the horn can prompt a reaction out of the other driver that may not match up with your instincts, resulting in an accident which may have been avoided had the horn not been used. You can’t expect the other car to do what you think it should do. Sounding the horn can also, in some cases and for some people, be too much of a distraction and take away from your ability to avoid an accident. If you are in a situation where you cannot actively avoid an accident, like if you’re stuck at a light or in a line of cars and can’t get out of someone’s way whom is heading towards you, seemingly oblivious to your existence, sounding the horn can certainly help avoid an accident by alerting the other driver of your presence. As far as using the horn to prompt someone to move once the traffic light has turned green, prudence needs to be exercised to avoid road rage. Some people lay on the horn the instant the light changes, which I feel is inappropriate and dangerous (after all, you don’t know who is driving that car and whether or not they are armed and dangerous), but if someone has been sitting there for five seconds and hasn’t moved, a quick beep with a friendly smile can be a good way to communicate the message that, hey, the light’s green.

Using your horn is a lot quicker than filling out an accident report.


When someone’s safety is at stake and a horn is the most appropriate means of communication, use it. Noise makers on bikes, backup apparatus, trains etc. are all there for a reason and necessary. It really comes down to judgment. Do you use it to save a life or vent your own frustration ? That’s the toughest decision.

I have to push the horn button on my cars once a year of so, just to be sure the horns still work. The cars won’t pass state inspection without a functioning horn.

If it weren’t for that once-a-year test I wouldn’t know what the horns on my cars sound like, because I never use them.

Having said that, I think there are times when it is appropriate to use the horn as a warning to others.

It’s a personal choice. You’re both right. Isn’t there something more important you can argue about?

If you’re actually getting angry behind the wheel I think you should seek help. Take a deep breath and calm down.

I Take Your Side.

[list]Warning device ? Yes [/list]

[list]Scolding device ? No [/list]


The horn is a safety device. If a car’s horn does not work it does not pass a state inspection, can not be registered, and is illegal to drive.
In my city (Baltimore) I drive with my finger purposely on the horn button and likely prevent an accident at least once a year by using it.

mark9207: I agree about using the horn at traffic lights; I tend to wait 5-10 seconds and give a light tap if the person in front hasn’t moved by that point. Laying on the horn as soon as the light changes is the behavior of a jerk.

Whitey: I make every effort not to backseat drive since I’m aware of how irritating that is, but when I’m in the car, my safety is at risk, too – there have been many times that I believe we might have been in accidents had I not warned my husband that he was about to hit something (he is easily distracted and it’s worse if there’s someone in the car for him to talk to…he’s usually fine alone), and there have been a few occasions when he has prevented an accident while I’m driving by doing the same. So I’m not about to stay silent when both our lives could be at stake, and I also appreciate it when he warns me of potential danger if I’m driving and don’t see it.

Everyone: it’s not like we argue about this constantly – just once every few months or so when a situation arises that reminds us of it. I just wondered what other people’s opinions on the subject might be.

Exactly! It’s a situational judgment call, so unless each one of us is there the next time the OP thinks her husband should use the horn, we can’t really say with authority who is right.

Cars have horns for a reason.

Based on what you have told us, your husband was able to avoid all of these accidents without using his horn. If honking the horn prevents an accident, I am all for it, but in the circumstances you describe, honking the horn wasn’t necessary or there would have been accidents.

If he is that distracted, perhaps you should do the driving. I agree you have a right to protect your safety, but the best way to do that is to not put yourself in dangerous situations in the first place. In 99.9% of accidents and close calls, there are easily identifiable risk factors that could have been eliminated beforehand to improve your odds. Your husband being distracted behind the wheel sounds like one of those factors.

One interesting tidbit: the 1949 Dodge Wayfarer roadster did not come with a horn as standard equipment. I’m not certain about the 1950 and 1951 models. The Wayfarer roadster was dropped after 1951.

I remember seeing a 1939 Chevrolet Master DeLuxe coupe at an auction sale back in 1954. It was equipped from the factory with two horn levels and a switch whereby one could select the country horn or the city horn. Also, back in the 1940’s and through the 1950’s, the lowest trim line of the lowest price cars had a single note horn and the horn was operated by a button in the center of the steering wheel. The more deluxe versions had a 2 note horn and the horn was sounded by pressing a horn ring. I think drivers of upscale cars were expected to toot the horn more often.

It is OK to use the horn as either a warning or to express an opinion. Yesterday afternoon on the way home from work, someone decided to cut in front from the left to get around another driver. Unfortunately, he had to careen right about a car length in front of me. That’s too close at 65 MPH. A completely stupid act on his part, and he needed to know that I don’t care to be placed in danger by a thoughtless fool. If I had not told him so, he would think it is OK to drive like that. As it turns out, a truck was pulling from the right into the same lane just in front of where he wanted to insert himself. He almost accelerated into the truck’s rear bumper. Dumb. As. A. Brick. People like that need constant reminders just in case they have a rare lucid moment.

And it’s fine with me if I get honked at if I miss the car in my blind spot when I want to change lanes.

In your text you speak of instict, and that is the key with you AND with him.
You’re not going to change him by harping at him about each incident

– you could atually cause an accident that he would otherwise have avoided if not for his trying to think outside his zone of action first but into yours…" gee, what about the horn ".

The instantaneous, gut reaction, “instinct” is deep down long trained habbit that will only ever change with repeated practice…YOU, to not go for the horn first but to take action. HIM , to find those incidents when the horn would’ve meant something.
. Just talk about those things. Practice in your minds the “what ifs” when just normaly driving along.
. To pressure that, right at the time of the incident could just make matters worse.

I don’t use the horn a lot and, with 20/20 hindsight, could name a few times the butthead over there should’ve gotten an ear full. But in every one of those incidents, action first avoided any accidents at all.

Like the boy who cried wolf, there ar too many horns out there too often. A horn is not taget aimed and blares to everyone in range, pretty soon you just start tuning them all out anyway.

( and pitty the fool who blares on the horn outside a house for someone to come their door…FOUR HOUSES AWAY ! Dude , get out and go knock on the door. )

One piece of music I enjoy playing is excerpts from George Gershwin’s “American in Paris”. There is one passage where the horns and the trombones imitate auto horns that Gershwin heard on the streets of Paris.

I use the horn…to annoy other people or to express that you’re ticked off at them or get them to move when they’re, say, stopped at a green light.

I also use the horn as a warning device to prevent accidents. Often I’m in traffic and someone in the next lane starts changing lanes right into my car…and I beep to let them know I’m there. I was hit by a van full of migrant workers like this once doing 70 mph. They realized they’d missed their exit and shot over from the left lane, right into the side of my new car (I was in the right lane). That was my only accident in 40 years of driving.

By the way, the first paragraph of my answer is “toung in cheek”. I don;t actually intentionally annoy people.

Some need a horn but I don’t. The horn on my last car quit working several years before I traded it. I have a motorcycle with a horn that has not worked for at least 4 years.

When riding a bike, your first response when a dangerous situation is encountered should be to get out of harms way, not to reach for the horn button. If you have time to reach for the button to sound the horn, you didn’t need it and just want to blow off steam or get even with an erratic driver. No horn works for me with the car too.

A horn can not educate an erratic driver.