I need this car horn

Have you noticed that in US cities, when you are at a stop light and the color changes to green, sometimes the person behind will honk angrily if you do not immediately take off like a jack rabbit? That annoys the hell out of me and is one reason why I almost never use the horn even when it is the person in front of me at a stop light who has not immediately noticed that the light has turned to green. In such cases, it is often the driver behind me who horns.

With the standard car horn one has just two options: a long blast that sounds angry or a quick tap. But even the latter tends to sound too peremptory for me. Mark Rober, an engineer, does what engineers do and that is find solutions to practical everyday needs. In this clip that I found via Rusty Blazenhoff, Rober describes how he added a variety of car horns to meet specific driving needs, such as gently alerting people.

I hope car manufacturers take note and make the courtesy horn a standard feature so that we do not all have to become do-it-yourself experts. I really, really want a car horn like this.


  1. johnson catman says

    If I am behind someone at a stoplight, I expect the person to devote attention to driving. If they don’t immediately go when the light turns green, I will not honk, but if they linger for two seconds or longer, I will give a tap to the horn. If you are distracted by your phone, makeup, whatever, get off the road and take care of it. Driving now, especially in urban situations, requires focus because of people who are casual about their responsibilities on the road.

  2. Reginald Selkirk says

    I really, really want a car horn like this.

    You’re not an engineer, but I should think a physicist might be able to construct his own.

  3. Onamission5 says

    @jason cartman

    I don’t immediately jump at green lights when I’m first in line because I don’t want to get nailed by someone who decided that a red light is merely a suggestion. I take a moment or two to make sure everyone who’s supposed to stop is actually stopping. Often someone isn’t, or looks like they might not, then brakes at the last second. Entirely too often!

  4. timberwoof says

    Instead of honking the horn, I just say, “Beep!”
    It works most of the time.

  5. EigenSprocketUK says

    Drivers in the USA need to be woken up by the driver behind? Intriguing. Yes, car manufacturers should definitely get on that. Preferably by automating the car and giving such drivers an optional upgrade that gives them a stick-on brightly coloured steering wheel which includes a squeaky horn.

  6. Mobius says

    Terry Pratchett, in one of his Discworld books, informed us that the shortest unit of time was the New York Second, which he defined as the time between the light turning green and the car behind you honking its horn.

  7. johnson catman says

    Onamission5 @3:
    I presume that you were directing that at me. Not sure if it was a mistake in transcribing my name or an attempt at humor. (Respect mah authoritie!)

    If I am at the head of the line at a stoplight, I don’t immediately go either. I first look both ways. But two seconds is a pretty good amount of time to verify whether crossing traffic is stopping or not.

  8. Marshall says

    There is nothing more frustrating for me than being the fifth car or so at a red light, and missing that round of green when the light turns because people in front of me weren’t paying attention and sat through precious green light time. I don’t honk immediately, but if it’s 2 seconds or so I’ll give a little beep.

  9. EigenSprocketUK says

    Yikes, Marshall, you honk from five cars back?? That’s uncommon dedication to the cause of annoying the local residents.

    When people do that to me, I frequently (every time) lose my confidence in operating a stick-shift, stall the engine, and then set off with just enough time for four cars to get through.
    Chill, those 100seconds aren’t going to kill you.

  10. Timothy says

    What a fantastic idea! (I especially like the R2D2 sounds.)

    I’d buy one in a heartbeat.

  11. Onamission5 says

    @johnson catman:
    One of these days I will learn to c&p rather than rely on memory. My apologies!

  12. Marshall says

    I don’t honk from five cars back; I’ll leave that to the people in front of me. But if I’m the second car, I’m always very mindful of the people behind me who have places to be and who might miss the light.

    Also, I don’t buy the “those 100 seconds aren’t going to kill you” argument. I don’t know if there’s a fallacy for “the consequences of this problem aren’t severe so we shouldn’t care.” When you have a 15 minute drive and this happens every other stop light, pretty soon your 15 minute drive becomes 30, and the person you’re heading to pick up is standing in the cold for 15 minutes angry that you’re late. It just sucks for everyone. “Leave 15 minutes earlier” is not always an option, and if things DO happen to go smoothly, then you’re either stuck circling the block wasting gas, or parked illegally with your hazards on.

    I could go on, but the point is that the excessive time lost on the road due to drive inattentiveness is incredibly frustrating.

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