Last updated: August 2022
Whether you love it or hate it, the car horn is at every driver’s fingertips at all times. Some people see the horn as a fun way to say hello to friends, and others will honk the horn at any driver who is “going too slow.”
But when is it actually appropriate to honk your horn, and how should you use it? Is honking your horn illegal in some cases? Does a short ‘beep’ suffice? Should you tap the horn for a series of sharp sounds, or should you lay on the horn to get maximum attention? Our car horn guide has advice on when and how to honk the horn for a safer driving experience.
Is honking your car horn illegal?
The answer to this question would be, “it depends.” For example, Texas Transportation Code states that “a motor vehicle operator shall use a horn to provide audible warning only when necessary to ensure safe operation.” Like Texas, many states have similar laws limiting horn use to times of imminent danger. If you use your horn in the wrong situation, you could actually be given a ticket depending on where you live. Make sure to look up state and local laws before you hit the road and hit your horn.
Times You SHOULD Use Your Car Horn
Wondering when it’s okay to honk the horn? Here are a few situations where hitting the horn can be helpful, according to DefensiveDriving.com.
- When a car crash is imminent: No driver is perfect. Perhaps you’re in an 18-wheeler’s blind spot, and the driver begins to merge into your lane. You’re already in the right lane, and you don’t have anywhere to go. In this situation, you’re perfectly entitled to honk your horn. By honking your horn, you can alert the other driver of your presence, hopefully preventing an accident.
- When a car in front of you isn’t paying attention to a stoplight: You’re at an intersection, and the light turns green. However, the car in front of you remains stationary. After giving the driver several seconds to get moving, giving them a polite ‘beep’ might be a good idea. If drivers behind you weren’t stopped at the light, they might see the green glow and not be prepared to stop. If a short ‘beep’ can prevent a crash, do it.
- When a pedestrian is in danger: A horn shouldn’t only be put to use if a driver is in danger. If a pedestrian is not paying attention and about to walk in front of your vehicle (or someone else’s vehicle), hitting the horn can save a life. However, don’t honk at pedestrians or cyclists who are following traffic rules. In these situations, remain patient.
Times You SHOULDN'T Use Your Car Horn
When is using the horn inappropriate? Here are some times to avoid hitting the horn.
- When you have another choice: Honking your horn can startle other drivers, and cause them to panic. If you can slow down or change lanes to prevent a crash without hitting the horn, do so. A car horn is a useful tool, but you don’t have to use it in every situation.
- When you’re upset: Even if someone is driving under the speed limit or cuts you off in traffic, avoid retaliating with the horn. As stated above, the startling sound of a car horn could cause an even more dangerous situation to unfold. The other driver could become flustered and make an even bigger mistake. It’s better to remain calm at all times when you’re driving.
How to Honk a Car Horn
When it’s time to use the horn, the goal is to make sure everyone stays safe. When you go to honk your horn, make sure you’re heard, but try to avoid laying on the horn. Use honks sparingly and opt for a quick beep when possible. Be firm when you need to, but always try to be polite.
Before you get in the car and honk the horn again, take a minute to ask yourself if you have the right insurance coverage. Visit DirectAuto.com, give us a call, or visit one of our convenient locations. And if you have a spare minute, take our driving personality quiz! It might help you uncover the reason behind your car horn use.