[Metroactive Features]

[ Features Index | Santa Cruz | Metroactive Home | Archives ]

[whitespace]
Rev

Honk If You Love Noise Pollution

Many people have made the horn into their frustration mouthpiece. This must stop, for the health of our ears and our sanity.

By Novella Carpenter

Of the many emails I've received regarding this three-part series on noise pollution and cars, not one person has mentioned horns and honking. They dis car alarms, car stereos and loud motorcycles, but alas, not honking. Indeed my friends at Noise Free America, a group devoted to fighting noise pollution, don't even list honking as one of their primary campaigns.

Evidently, I'm the only one with a horn hang-up. The way to deal with this, my therapist recommends, is to look to the past. Horns were among the first accessories for the automobile. Looking through a book of Model T catalogs, I noticed that a variety of horns were offered alongside motometers and leaf spring oilers. For instance, accessory number 61R5726 is heralded as a "reliable positive horn with a three-tone chime." Only $2.75! Back in the old days, horns were often connected to the exhaust system to generate their noise. There were also bulb horns--think clown car--and even a few electric horns which required their own battery to work.

Today horns are powered by the car's battery. When the hand hits the horn, a vibration is sent out which is then amplified to make that bleating car horn noise that I loathe so much. A car horn is 110 decibels, the same amount of sound as a leaf blower or a disco. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 110 decibels is loud enough to damage hearing if exposed for a minute and a half or longer. Of course, nobody honks for this long, but consider a traffic jam in midtown Manhattan, and you're got a bunch of toasted cilia in no time flat. Unnecessary honking also creates a sense of pandemonium, and sudden noises make people feel stressed out.

Not only is honking bad for your health, it also might be illegal. Most states have some vehicle and traffic laws that require (1) that every motor vehicle has a horn and (2) that this horn should only be used in the case of an emergency, to signal danger, and (3) that it shouldn't be loud or harsh. Illinois state law regarding horns, for example, reads, "The driver of a motor vehicle shall, when reasonably necessary to insure safe operation, give audible warning with his horn but shall not otherwise use such horn when upon a highway." The idea behind the law being that if you use a horn in nondangerous circumstances, it loses its power as a warning device. Many people have made the horn into their frustration mouthpiece. It exudes the powerful feelings they are experiencing. This must stop, for the health of our ears and our sanity. Just in time for Christmas, here is my Honking Rule Book:

Don't honk if you can brake. If you must tell someone about your displeasure at getting cut off, I find that flashing my headlights at them is a much better way to do this.

Don't honk as you go through a red light; stop instead. What are you--a kamikaze pilot? Only honk if your brakes are failing or you're skidding on ice through an intersection.

Never ever, never use the horn as a doorbell. Not only is that loud and annoying, it is rude to the person you are picking up. Use your cell phone and call them, or haul your ass out of the car to knock.

Don't honk to say hello or goodbye. Use the hand, baby, use the hand and wave.

If you honk the nanosecond you see the light turn green, you need to learn how to relax. Give the car in front of you at least four seconds before giving a short toot to wake him/her up.

Never honk at a bicyclist. This can startle them, and it's insulting. The only time a car horn should be directed toward bicyclists is if they are children on bikes and are in danger.

There is never any reason in the world to lie on a horn, unless you are being murdered.


Next week, a noise almost everyone hates: boom cars! Email me at novellacarpenter@yahoo.com.

[ Santa Cruz | Metroactive Central | Archives ]


From the December 22-29, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.

For more information about Santa Cruz, visit santacruz.com.




Foreclosures - Real Estate Investing
San Jose.com Real Estate