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The etiquette of honking

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Well, it’s official, and it’s a record. For the third time this year, I must make my way to the dark and damp basement.

After fighting off giant spider crickets and scorpions and cutting through monster cobwebs, my soapbox will be retrieved. I shall bring it out into the light, dust it off, and once again stand upon it.
Well, to be honest, The Wife’s gonna have to help me up. I’m still recovering from a hip injury, and she doesn’t want me to fall.

So just what has me pulling out my hair this time, you might ask? Why none other than the etiquette of honking. Seems some folks in our fair county haven’t read the rules yet. Well now, let me be of assistance. After all, The Wife says I’m good at telling others what to do.

Rule number one is probably the most important rule of all. If you’re behind me, don’t be concerned. There’s nothing wrong with my car. It goes the posted speed limit but no faster. Honking constantly will not fix the problem because there isn’t one to fix.

But don’t worry. If you are the constant honker behind me, consider yourself in good company. The Wife hasn’t learned this rule either. And no, calling me on the cell phone to ask me to go faster doesn’t work.

Rule number two pertains to traffic lights. If you are directly behind the first car at a light, you’re allowed to honk when the light has changed to green – on one condition.
When the light has changed, you must first count to 10 before honking. After all, you wouldn’t want to distract the driver in front of you from finishing that last text or scolding an unruly child in the backseat. The car behind you has no rights. Honking will not push your car, or the car in front of you, out of his way.

Rule number three is the solid yellow line rule. A solid line on the same side as you doesn’t mean the DOT just had extra paint it needed to use. Solid yellow means you can’t pass, no matter how slow the car in front of you is going.

No amount of honking will change the line to a dashed one so you can pass nor will it make me go any faster. If you still don’t know why I drive more slowly than you, please refer to rule number one.

Rule number four deals with small woodland creatures. If a bunny, chipmunk, or deer crosses your path, you must slow down, politely tap your horn once, and let them pass.
However, no braking or horn blowing is needed for squirrels. Cars can’t dodge squirrels, and squirrels can’t dodge cars. When they see an approaching car, squirrels can’t make up their minds which way to go. Horn blowing or not, studies have shown squirrels can avoid cars only 5 percent of the time.

Turtles, on the other hand, don’t need to. They’re an automatic stop. Absolutely no horn blowing is allowed. After all, turtles are on turtle time. They can’t be rushed. Get out of the car and help them cross the road.

Rule number five concerns being late for work or an appointment. Running late doesn’t give you the right to blow your horn trying to make the car in front of you go faster. If you need to be there on time, you should’ve left 10 minutes earlier. Then again if you were a turtle, you’d be on turtle time and never late.

Lastly, if your travels take you to Europe this summer — be warned. Them folks over there have different ideas about horn blowing. Be prepared before you go and learn these three rules.

One tap on the horn: the driver is giving you a friendly hello.

Two taps with no wave: he’s simply asking a question.

Three quick taps with one arm raised and the driver isn’t saying hello, asking a question, or being friendly.

He’s mad ‘cause you obviously didn’t learn how to drive or blow your horn correctly while in his country.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, is in his third decade as a firefighter and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]

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