Vehicle horn use and safety

Critics of lock alert horn honking ask, "How was this allowed to happen? Isn't non-emergency horn honking illegal?" They cite noise ordinances that prohibit non-emergency horn honking, and find automakers' disregard for such laws perplexing. But just as puzzling is the disregard for common safety laws.

In the United States, anyone who drives must pass a written test and a road test. The written test is based on laws that are clearly defined in each state's driver manual. Noise ordinances focus on citizens' rights, health, and quality of life. Driving regulations focus on safety. Curious to know which states prohibit non-emergency horn honking, we read the official driver manuals for all fifty states and the District of Columbia and learned the following:

   41% of driver manuals explicitly limit horn use to warning of danger
   43% of driver manuals list acceptable and unacceptable forms of horn use
   15% of driver manuals do not mention horn use in the context of acceptable and unacceptable usage

In 41% of manuals, the horn is designated as a safety device. In 84% of manuals, non-emergency horn use is cited as a potential cause of serious accidents due to startling or confusing drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and animals. Many of the manuals that don't explicitly forbid non-emergency horn use still place non-emergency horn use in the context of aggression and road rage.

More than 80% of states' driving laws define the horn as a warning device whose misuse is inappropriate and capable of causing accidents. It is difficult to understand why engineers would use a warning device to indicate whether a car is locked and armed, a non-emergency situation if ever there was one. It is unfathomable that automakers would do so when quieter security indicators have always been available, and when they spent years and billions of dollars trying to make cars quieter.

Manuals that explicitly prohibit non-emergency horn honking

Alabama Driver Manual page 79
State of Alaska Driver Manual page 62
Arkansas Driver Manual pages 13, 26, and 36
California Driver Handbook pages 51-52
Connecticut Driver's Manual page 22
Delaware Driver Manual pages 76, 93, and 102-103
District of Columbia Driving Manual pages 19, 25, and 42
Kansas Driving Handbook page 9
Kentucky Driver Manual pages 5 and 17
State of Maine Motorist Handbook and Study Guide pages 46 and 60
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Driver's Manual page 10
Minnesota Driver's Manual page 20
Missouri Department of Revenue Drive Guide pages 63 and 69
Montana Driver License Manual pages 51, 60, and 74
New Jersey Driver Manual pages 49 and 181
North Carolina Driver's Handbook pages 68 and 83
South Carolina Driver's Manual pages 14 and 42
South Dakota Driver License Manual page 16
Tennessee Driver License Manual page 101
Washington Driver Guide pages 18, 41, and 60
Wisconsin Motorists' Handbook pages 8, 25, and 26

Manuals that implicitly prohibit non-emergency horn honking by listing acceptable and unacceptable instances of horn use, and the potential consequences of unnecessary horn use

Colorado Driver Handbook pages 2, 26, 27
Georgia Department of Driver Services 2011 Driver's Manual pages 96 and 113
Idaho Driver's Manual pages 5-9 and 5-10
Illinois Rules of the Road pages 73 and 75
Iowa Driver's Manual pages 18 and 34
Louisiana Drivers Guide pages 41 and 52
State of Michigan, What Every Driver Must Know page 113
Nebraska Driver's Manual pages 26 and 61
State of New Hampshire Driver's Manual pages 63 and 99-99
New Mexico Driver Manual pages 18-19
New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Driver's Manual page 71
North Dakota Department of Transportation Rules of the Road page 65
Oklahoma Driver's Manual pages 30, 31, and 70
Oregon Driver Manual page 60
Pennsylvania Driver's Manual pages 43, 55, and 58
Rhode Island Driver's Manual pages 42, 50, and 52
Texas Drivers Handbook page 72
Utah Driver Handbook pages 37-38
Vermont Driver's Manual pages 40 and 45
Virginia Driver's Manual page 25
State of West Virginia Driver's Licensing Handbook pages 48, 63, and 76
Wyoming Rules of the Road page 46

Manuals that do not mention horn honking and safety

Arizona Driver License Manual No mention
2011 Florida Driver's Handbook page 28, minor mention
Hawaii Driver's Manual No mention
Indiana Driver's Manual No mention
Maryland Driver's Manual Page 29, minor mention
Mississippi Driver License Manual No mention
Nevada Driver's Handbook No mention
Ohio Responsible Driver Handbook No mention
Digest of Ohio Motor Vehicle Laws No mention

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