Thinking allowed — 13 October 2017

Our first holiday after I passed The Knowledge was a Nile cruise. My wife had always wanted to go and as she had missed joining her school’s trip and had been a ‘Knowledge Widow’ for nearly five years, it seemed a perfect destination.

At the time the Egyptians were very westernised and were a joy to meet, as a bonus many of them spoke better English than some cabbies I know.

As, now, a professional driver it surprised me just how many times they would sound their horn for some inexplicable reason, in fact, the towns were a cacophony of horns.

This trend has now reached London and as Insure the Gap has found it’s becoming an increasing annoyance.

The car horn has been around for as long automobiles have existed. As far back as the 1800’s on some of the earliest incarnations, motorists had a choice of numerous signalling devices including bulb horns, whistles and bells. The bulb horn became popular in America in the early 1900’s, but soon people were calling for a more effective warning device that could be heard miles ahead.

Manufacturers came up with a variety of solutions, however, it was the Klaxon (from the Greek word klaxo – meaning ‘to shriek’), that became the template for horns used in cars today as it only needed to be touched once to create a warning sound, as opposed to being sounded continuously.

The horn is fundamentally a safety device but as drivers, there are often other scenarios where we need to (or choose to) use it. Going by the letter of the law, some of these instances are in fact illegal, as the Highway Code says you may only use your horn when you are moving and need to warn others of your presence. It also states that horns cannot be used in built-up areas between 11.30pm and 7.00am.

Fines of £30 can be handed out on the spot (rising to £1,000 if unpaid in time), but the reality is it’s very difficult for the authorities to enforce these laws.

Here are the top 10 reasons in which circumstances you are likely to give someone a honk:

84% honk their horns when another driver pulls out suddenly

73% honk their horns when pedestrians step into the road

71% honk their horns when a road user is driving recklessly

62% honk their horns when other drivers fail to move quickly at traffic lights

53% honk their horns before going around a blind corner

46% honk their horns at a vehicle with visible faults

44% honk their horns to say hello to people they know

39% honk their horns by accident

32% honk their horns at vehicles that are not indicating

15% honk their horns at other drivers that are going too slowly

And my biggest annoyance? It is when drivers get in the habit of sounding their horns just as the traffic lights start to change indicating that those in front should move forward before green is indicated.

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(6) Readers Comments

  1. To be fair I think people honk just before the lights go green to make sure those in front are ready to go at the change rather than take 5 mins after the light goes green before moving. The general traffic, the ridiculously phased lights and stop start engines have exacerbated this issue imo. People used to just flash their lights back in the day, not sure when it changed.

    • It’s illegal, but I suppose the countries where it originated it’s fine to annoy everybody nearby

  2. It is interesting that being a Londoner living in Northern Colorado how much more polite & patient British drivers are even in London. Drivers here don’t indicate – maybe they think using their indicators affects their home electricity bill. Impatient? Dawn French would have more patience in the Cadbury Factory at Bourneville. Colorado drivers are the second worst in the world that I have come across. #1 vote goes to the maniacs around the Elgin area in Scotland. I am surprised there is anyone left alive up there. Thanks for the brilliant list of stats in your commentary.

    • Remind me not to become a Colorado Cabbie

      • No fear of that …… it’s Uber dominated!

        • Then I definitely will not be going there to work

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