The Etiquette of the Honk

angry-driverDriving home with my daughter the other evening, I found myself schooling her on the etiquette of the honk.  I’m a pretty even-keeled, balanced person, but I find “incidents” on the road can really irk me.  The other night I was sitting at a green traffic light, waiting for the oncoming traffic to clear so I could take a left hand turn.  Since I had pulled up, I could no longer see the light, and I was just looking at the traffic.  The oncoming traffic slowed, signaling it was time for me to make my move.  But just then, the car behind me let out a loud, obnoxious, sit on your horn honk (as in woooooonnnnnkkk), which made me really mad.  I then turned to my daughter to start educating her about “the honk.”  I think my tirade went something like this:

“Eliza, there are two kinds of honks – a ‘toot-toot’ friendly honk to remind someone to keep moving, and the loud sit on your horn ” wooooooooooonnnnnnk” quite obnoxious honk.  Now, back at that corner, that honk should have been a friendly “toot toot.”  The “wooooooooonnnnnnk” type horn style should only be used when you’re in impending danger of getting run into.  Then wooooonnnnnking honking is entirely appropriate.  Unfortunately we live in an area of the country, where people like to throw their weight around by “wooooonnnnnnking” too frequently and are misguided about the finesse and strength of mind over matter that it takes to appropriately apply your hand to the honking area of the steering wheel after assessing the honk situation that you’re in.

So adamant am I about this, that the local driving school has invited me to be a guest lecturer.  I’ll make sure that the up and coming young drivers know just when to toot or woooooonnnnnnnk.


  • Deidre Says:
    3-18-2011 16:04:33

    One of the first things I noticed after moving to LA was the lack of honking…sometimes, when a car is not moving after a light changes or at a stop sign, I find myself sitting there waiting an “appropriate” amount of time before giving them a toot to let them know I am there waiting. I am now startled by the honking I experience when I return to the East Coast.

  • Anne Says:
    3-19-2011 11:46:44

    I was also impressed upon my first visit to LA several years ago how the drivers always yield to people in crosswalks, or trying to cross the street in general. In our area on the east coast, you still take your life in your hands, regardless of whether you’re crossing at a crosswalk or not.

  • Cindy L Says:
    3-21-2011 20:24:58

    As a travel magazine editor for nearly 6 years, I had many opportunities to learn about drivers around the U.S. My observations: East coast was/is especially frantic and dangerous. Crossing the street felt like a life-threatening risk.

    In the deep south, it was exactly the opposite. In Charleston, SC, my crew and I stepped onto a busy street and — wow — every single car stopped and let us cross safely. Southern hospitality! I couldn’t have been more impressed had I see the Red Sea part. Likewise, Californian drivers are courteous too.

  • Cindy's Coffeehouse Says:
    3-24-2011 19:47:32

    I agree that there is a culture about when and how long to honk a horn. Between freshman and sophomore years in college, I went with a group of students to Europe for a month. In England, the local college student who was our liaison told us a local joke: “What’s the definition of a half second? The time it takes for the light to turn green and the driver behind you to honk his horn!”

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