On Car Horns

December 10

I recently had a conversation with a friend over Guinness and scotch. Often, at some point in the evening, friends and acquaintances ask me car-related questions. Unfortunately, the conversations seldom go the way they expected.

The initial query was to explore why car manufacturers went from (in certain vehicles) having specific horn activation areas on the steering wheels to requiring the driver to press the entire centre section of the steering wheel. My friend’s concern was that as he comes across a situation where an identified risk is increasing, he does as he was taught. This means that he covers the horn with his hand and the brake pedal with his foot, anticipating things to go wrong. My friend’s concern is that by covering the horn with his hand, should things go terribly awry, his hand is essentially covering the airbag, exponentially increasing the risk of a severe injury.

As discussed in one of my earliest posts, airbags are not soft pillows that slowly deploy to provide a soft and comfy spot for a nap. The deployment is quite violent and will most likely lead to injury – however a lesser injury than if it’d not deployed. The deceleration threshold required for an airbag to deploy is quite severe. In short, if an airbag deploys due to a collision, your car’s no longer drivable.

Here my concern had nothing to do with my friend’s arm possibly breaking due to an airbag deployment event. It had to do with his habit of covering the brake and horn when he identified a threat. As a motorcycle rider, if I depend on my horn, I’m dead. Or lose my legs.


So I asked him why he covered the horn and brake. As expected, it was so that if another driver did something that would assuredly cause a collision, he could alert him or her before it happened. I let the smoothness of the Guinness pass and sipped the scotch, letting its aroma negate all other senses for a brief moment.

When I asked him how he reacts when someone honks at him, he realized that I was pulling another fast one and that this was no longer going where he wanted it to. ┬áSo I answered for him. If the horn is heard, one pauses and assesses the situation. Who is honking? Where are they? Why are they honking? What’s happening? It’s me?! What do I need to do to alter the course of events to prevent this imminent collision?!?

By this time, if the horn was sounded due to an apparently unavoidable collision for the other vehicle, the assessment time takes too long and BANG. Time to become acquainted with an insurance adjuster. Furthermore, the vast majority of people (as my friend agreed he also did) wait until the very last possible moment before honking, letting events develop as they may until it appears that all is lost.

The horn is intended as a communication device. The problem here is that to communicate, one has to successfully convey a message. In the case of a horn, this requires the assessment of the other party so that both people come to the same conclusion. So sounding the horn as you pull up to a friend’s house communicates that you are arrived. Sounding it when another driver knowingly cuts you off communicates that you consider them an absolute fuckbudgie. Or possibly douche nozzle. However, communication is too slow when an impending collision is in the works.

When riding a motocyclette, one has to be aware of the location of all adjacent vehicles. At all times. At least, a check at short intervals, such as 10-15 seconds, I’d say. If, as a rider, someone does something and catches me by surprise – I was not aware. It’s my responsibility to take care of me. Other drivers are too likely to be distracted for me to trust them. They’re fatigued, checking an SMS, distracted by the choices they have for dinner, still fuming at what their boss said before they left work, wondering if others in that meeting earlier could smell their underwear, checking to see if that coffee got on their white shirt, ad infinitum.

If I have to use my horn, I’m essentially acting as a helpless agent in an unfolding situation and am appealing to everyone around me to help resolve it on my behalf. Good luck.

I tend to reserve my horn for three things.

Hello! (Meeeep!)

See you! (Meep meep!)

You. Fucking. Cunt. I’d like to see you try that without hiding behind your car’s cage. (MEEP MEEEEEP MEEP MEEP MEEEEEEEEEEEP!)


Posted by on December 10, 2011 in Cars, General, Photography

1 Comment

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One response to “On Car Horns

  1. Blue Flame

    December 14, 2011 at 10:27

    The other day I was strategically driving in people’s blind spots. THREE times they almost drove into me in the process of a lane change where I was invisible to them. My honking saved me!

    The horn let them know that whatever it was that they were doing was BAD! And they immediately corrected for it without having to look around, assess the situation, waste time, get distracted, etc etc.

    I think perhaps other people’s honking methodology is deficient… but I think that when used appropriately the horn is an invaluable tool! The key is to use it proactively and not re-actively.

    Of course, none of this applies if you are on a motor-cycle. Then you’re on your own, as you say.

    Also, is it standard protocol to drink scotch and Guinness simultaneously? I’d’ve thought there’d be some rule against that?


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