Toot If You Know When.

When was the last time you sounded your horn? Many drivers rarely sound their horn at all, because they feel that it can be interpreted as being aggressive. The danger of this is that if an emergency were to occur, they may have difficulty actually finding it. On the other hand, some drivers seldom go through the day without sounding theirs.

Typical reasons drivers have for sounding the horn include, reminding the driver in front that the traffic lights have now changed to green and they should get moving or to blast someone for pulling out in front of them. In other words, for correcting another drivers mistakes.

In fact, the whole purpose of the horn is to warn other road users of your presence. They may not have noticed you or simply cannot see you. Either way, this represents a risk. In the example above, where a driver pulls out in front of you, the horn should be sounded before the other driver pulls out (so that you can prevent it) rather than after they have pull out (as a rebuke).

Ideally you should consider sounding your horn on approach to any hazard. This does not mean of course that you actually have to use it each time, just consider it. Generally speaking, the best time to sound your horn is after you have already adjusted your position and speed for the hazard. At this point the horn serves as a warning instrument when you have already minimised the risk (you still have other options available to you if necessary). This is preferable to sounding your horn and hoping the other driver reacts correctly. If they don't, you may not have enough time or space to stop. Sometimes children, the elderly or those with a hearing disability may not hear you at all.

You should adjust the length of the horn note to suit the particular circumstances at the time. As a general rule, the closer you are to the hazard, the shorter the note to be used because you don't want to startle someone. On the other hand, if you are well back from the hazard or if there is less chance of the horn being heard because of background noise or at higher speeds, a longer note could be considered. In situations where you are not able to see other road users such on approach to blind bends or hump back bridges, a long horn note may be appropriate. Either way, the overall principle is that the other road user should have time to hear the horn, recognise the risk and have time to react. Use your horn as you would your own voice and you won't go too far wrong.

7 May 2006 Staff

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