Why doesn't a car horn seem very loud when you are close to the car?

I’ve been discussing practical jokes with another poster here, and it reminds me I was recently the victim of a teenager playing one. I was a pedestrian, crossing at a crosswalk, and a teenage driver w/friends waiting for me to cross honked their horn for a full 10 seconds as I passed in front of their car. I presume they were impatient and just wanted me to move out of their way. The surprising thing was that the horn – even though I was just a foot or two from the front of their SUV – it didn’t sound very loud at all. Considerably less loud that car horns seems to sound when they are 10-15 feet away. Have the car designers figured out how to make the horn sound w/less volume when you are really close to the front of the car? Anybody else noticed this?

I think it is just a matter of different horns. The horns on my 02 Camry were hardly loud enough to be heard over the traffic noise. I got a pair off an older full size Buick at the junk yard and added then to the 2 existing horn. That gave plenty of volume and the chord they produce was so grating on the nerves people heard it then.

You must be a very slow street crosser. Taking 10 seconds to pass in front of a stopped car? Really?


Not all horns are equally loud

Some cars have two horns . . . low tone and high tone . . . while others get by with just one

I hope that was meant to be a joke . . .

When my hips are hurting . . . walking can become very slow

The operative word being horn. The physical shape forms the sound waves eminating from the horn. When you are close to the car and your head is closer to perpendicular to the sound output, it will be lower volume. The horn is designed to have highest volume facing foward and to the front where the hazards are usually located…

Not sure I understand. Well, I understand the horn is designed to be directional, loudest in one direction. As I passed by the car I was “in front” of it, so wouldn’t that make it sound louder? Or by “perpendicular” do you mean since I was very close to the car my head was above the horn?

hmm … well lets think about that. The pedestrian light is timed, allows 40 seconds to cross 6 lanes. You can see the seconds tick by as you are walking. It seems to take most folks – excepting kids on skateboards – the full 40 seconds to cover the distance. So that’s 40/6 = 6.7 seconds per lane. So you are right, 10 seconds to cross a lane is a little on the slow side. On the other hand I wasn’t timing the length of the horn blast with my cell-phone’s stopwatch to 1/100 seconds either … lol …

Exactly. When your hips are hurting you are very slow. And a car full of kids is impatient with you, I’m sure.

If you walk at 2 miles an hour, which is a leisurely walk, you are moving at just a bit less that 3 feet per second. At that rate you should cross a lane of traffic in about 3 to 3.5 seconds. If it takes 10 seconds to cross a lane of traffic you are moving at about .75 mph. That is very, very slow.

And telling somebody that doesn’t somehow make them capable of moving faster . . . :thinking:

Unless you’re very short in stature :wink:
Your head was above the primary cone of radiating sound from the horn.


Which would have cause me to stop and start scratching embarrassing body parts, waving at the car and smiling. The more they honked the less I’d move and the closer I’d get to the car so it couldn’t drive around me.

That is rude as heck!


lol … When I’m driving & somebody in a car behind me honks I naturally slow down. It’s just instinct. It’s not that I want to irritate them by driving more slowly. I interpret the horn-honk as a warning the driver behind has noticed something potentially dangerous happening in the vicinity and is just giving the drivers around them a heads-up. If the honk is intended to make drivers ahead go faster, I don’t see that as very effective. In fact it will usually make the drivers ahead go slower.

I’m guessing a lot of horn honks are just a way for drivers to relieve their frustrations of the day. They can’t bleep out “HONK” at work when they are annoyed by their boss – and keep their paycheck – so they honk at the rest of us on their way home. I’ve noticed in recent months at the local council meetings it is pretty common to have several speakers addressing this topic; i.e. complaining about unnecessary horn honking. So the phenomenon isn’t going unnoticed.

Here’s what I find INCREDIBLY annoying . . .

When I am in the rightmost lane at an intersection … . . the one that’s either straight ahead or right turn . . . the light is green and traffic is stopped because a pedestrian is legally crossing the street, and some jerk a few cars back is honking. As if that’s going to change the situation in any way . . .

That’s where better planning comes in . . .

if you must make that right turn at that particular intersection, leave the house early enough, so that a pedestrian legally crossing the street doesn’t make you late to work

take a different route altogether, if it’s shorter, more efficient or less stressful, take your pick

Or if you have to go through that intersection, but go straight instead of turning, plan ahead and be in the middle lane, so that you aren’t slowed down by somebody legally crossing the street

One of my previous bosses told me something which I consider wise . . . he told us we’re expected to be at work on time, ready to start turning wrenches at the beginning of the shift. He said he didn’t want to hear excuses. He said we should leave early enough, so that minor incidents, such as a pedestrian crossing the street or a wreck on the side of the road, didn’t slow us down enough to make us late. And he also said that if we’re rushing in the door exactly on time, but aren’t in our work uniform, then we’re not actually ready to work on time, after all.

I suspect many of the people who are constantly honking their horns out on the road haven’t planned ahead very well . . . if at all

Who knows why they decide to use the horn? It’s the only noise people can make in a car, so that one sound has to serve every purpose. I find myself reaching for the horn often because the person in front of me seems numb to the world and probably only paying attention to the cat playing the accordion on Facebook. It can be the driver in front, it can be the pedestrian ambling across the street. I think cell phones have materially slowed down city traffic just because of these delayed reaction times.

Lots of people seem to be preparing to be passengers in self driving cars, even as they are still sitting in the driver’s seat.

And, if I offended someone here with my comments about slow walking, that wasn’t my intent. My intent was to point out that when we are sharing public space it’s our job to do it respectfully and go about our business promptly. Crossing a city street in a crosswalk at a busy intersection is not the time to be consulting Twitter or having a leisurely chat with your cousin about what’s for dinner next Sunday. If you’re driving, when the light changes, just go. We’re all waiting behind you. When you’re walking in the street, keep going as best you can.

Ah, ha! So, you’re one of those guys, ha, ha!
I use my horn only in situations that could help avoid a collision (somebody drifting over a lane marker, for example), not because I’m impatient.

Blow your horn at me because you are not patient and you will not achieve the results you seek.

As has been pointed out, if people need to get someplace by a certain time then they need to leave early enough so that slight delays won’t derail their arrival schedule.

I find that patient, forgiving, relaxed drivers are the safest drivers. I leave law enforcement up to the law enforcers. It keeps from having a horn honking fit erupt into a road rage incident.


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I like to consider myself patient but when the light turns green and I can count 10 and the car ahead still has the brakes on I tap the horn. Who are these people who feel entitled to finish sending their text with no regard for me getting to the McDonald’s restroom in time.

Was I not clear earlier . . . ?!

If my hips are in bad shape, I can only move so quickly when crossing the street. You honking on the horn isn’t going to cause me to walk faster, if I CAN’T walk faster.

Sure, I can put the phone away when I’m crossing the street, but if my hips are the limiting factor, then you as the guy in the car will just have to wait for me while I’m LEGALLY crossing the street

You were very clear. And that’s why I wrote what I did in the last line of my posting.

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