Is it Legal to Honk Your Horn? And What Do Different Honks Mean?
While running errands with my daughter last week we were at the intersection of Buffalo Gap Road and South Clack where all the road construction is taking place by the Mall of Abilene. While waiting at the light, it turns green, and the Boujee little SUV in front of us doesn't move, so my 20-year-old daughter leans over and taps my horn, and does a short beep.
I remarked don't do that because it's rude. She began schooling me as to what all the honks mean. As we are moving down South Danville the lady in the fancy SUV is clearly occupied with her cell phone and as we are changing lanes and passing her she decides to move over and nearly sideswipes us. Again, Daddy's little princess reaches over and honks two short beeps a brief pause, and two more short beeps.
LOOK: Know the Language of Horn Honking
I told my daughter, "don't do that again." This time she tells me she was communicating with her in "honk language" and she tells me what that one meant, I replied OMG. I am now furious because I do not honk at people and I'm under the impression that one could get a ticket for doing that.
When I was in school taking driver's education, we were told that the horn is for emergency purposes only. So I decided to research whether they are really against the law and also what the different honks mean, I'll explain down below.
First off, I checked with our local Police Department (city) and the Sheriff's Office (county) and I got two semi-different answers on the legality of using your horn. The Sheriff said, "yes, it is a violation and it's under transportation code section 547.501 for audible warning devices, the horn can actually be used when necessary to ensure safe operation however you cannot just randomly drive down the road and honk your horn just because you want to, it has to be for emergency purposes only and you could be ticketed for it." Source: Texas State Transportation Code section 547.501
My contact at the Police Department Detective Dorman explained it a little bit differently, saying "it's okay to honk your horn especially if you're trying to avoid an accident or bring attention to your position on the road." Public Information Officer Tomlin for the APD says that "unless that's code for something else, no honking is not illegal."
While all three law enforcement officers have different explanations for the "honking laws" the Texas Transportation Code reads clearly "A motor vehicle operator shall use a horn to provide audible warning ONLY when necessary to ensure safe operation. A warning device includes a horn may NOT emit an unreasonably loud or harsh sound or a whistle." Texas Public Law section 547.702 subsection A and B.
Now, onto the secrets of the honking codes and what they mean. Apparently, Gen X, Gen Z, and Millennials have their own way of communicating with the horn of their vehicle. Beware some are polite but most have some harsh language. And yes, my completely sober adult child shared some of these with me.
- At a traffic light, a short tap means: Wake up, the light is green now
- Medium honk: I seek your courtesy, please pay attention
- Long honk: Get the hell out of my way
- Longer honk: I want your head on a platter
- On the freeway, a short honk: Caution, that was a dumb move
- Two short taps and two more short taps: F#+&ing Dumb @$$
- Three medium blasts: I curse you, your ancestors, and all your descendants to the seventh generation you piece of $#!+
- Three long taps: Perhaps if you weren't trying to drive, text, and eat a takeout order of fettuccine Alfredo at the same time, you would have noticed that the $@#*& light is green you F#+&ing Dumb @$$
- Honk and hold until you've passed them: The prison sentence will be worth it you a$$ #@!&
- Very short tap while driving in your neighborhood: Lighthearted salutation. It can be used to acknowledge passing neighbors or inform other people in your carpool that you have arrived to pick them up
- Bonus: Short beep, then a medium beep: Followed by a hand signal of annoyance toward cyclists. The short beep warns; the medium beep adds emphasis. Similar to saying, "Get out of the way, you slowpoke D@#$&*+%!"
- Three short beeps, three long beeps, three short beeps: SOS
Sources: The Columbas Dispatch / First Time Drivers / Driving Defensive
My advice to you while driving in Texas is simply this, drive defensively be kind and polite, and it's better to get there safe and sound than not getting there at all.