It's time to put an end to the use of car horns. Not just pass ineffective laws against using it but ban it altogether. It must be removed during regular state inspections and cannot be included with any new car sold. This device is supposed to alert others to dangerous situations, but in reality over 99% of all horn use is at best a nuisance and at worst creates dangerous situations by scaring people or prompting sudden moves. Also, each use of this sound weapon in an urban area bothers at least a few dozen and sometimes hundreds of people. Most of us have to put up with this terrible sound throughout our daily lives while the person causing the disturbance is insulated by a steel box. Every time a driver honks in my presence I have the urge to pull up along side them, smash their closed window and put a super loud air horn right against their ear.
In case you're not convinced:
- The average car horn exceeds 100 decibels, well above the level at which hearing damage occurs (85 decibels), even though the user is surrounded by an insulated steel box and not exposed.
- The privilege that is the availability of the horn promotes dangerous behavior. Drivers often drive recklessly and deliberately intimidate people in the hope that they won't have to slow down and drive responsibly. But when you can't bully people you have to show some courtesy and respect.
- Car horns frighten people, often enough to cause pedestrians to trip or cyclists to lose control and crash. Besides just being a dick, a driver who intimidates pedestrians and non-motorized vehicle users is putting those people in serious danger.
- Such loud sounds are a nuisance to everyone except the person using it. Because the driver is insulated by a steel box, horn users never seem to care about its impact on others.
- Despite clear evidence that traffic congestion and delays do not magically solve themselves when honked at, too many drivers haven't figured that out.
- Although most places prohibit use of the horn except for danger, there are no effective consequences for inappropriate use of the horn. Enforcement of such laws is difficult and usually ignored by the same police departments that ignore other reckless and arrogant driving behavior.
- Pedestrians, bicyclists and other non-motorized road users get along just fine without a horn, even though they are in much more danger and could probably use one. If anything, horns should be on bikes instead of cars.
If you insist that we must have the horn for dangerous situations, we have to reduce the volume and put a strict limit on its use. I propose a maximum of two uses per month; after that it just won't work. Maybe you can get an additional two uses by explaining to a judge why you had to use it the first two times.
Trucks and buses can keep their horns. In certain limited situations it is a safe practice for large vehicles to tap the horn to warn other road users. These professional drivers are mostly trained to use it responsibly and can more easily be held accountable. And obviously, emergency vehicles.
Of course none of this will ever happen because the car lobby has such a firm grip on our government policy and decision makers. They market their products as status symbols and means of exercising power over others.