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So, you were out for a drive the other day and the next thing you know, someone was leaning on their horn. Not a little “watch out” beep, or a longer “wake up, the light’s green” honk, but a full ten-second, road-rage horn blast–all while glaring at another driver. Horns may be important for car safety, but is this sort of bad medicine illegal?

Is it illegal to honk your horn?

The driver of a Jeep Wrangler dancing along to music while driving with the roof down.
Dancing to music in a Jeep Wrangler | Jacob Jolibois via Unsplash

Gary Megge of the Michigan State Police told The Sun, “Yes, you can use your horn, but not whenever you want.” The expert specified that legal horn use is only, “when reasonably necessary to insure (sic) safe operation.”

This makes sense: horns were originally installed on cars as a safety device. Sometimes, it is critical you get another driver’s attention. And if they are streaming Bon Jovi on a 19-speaker Bang and Olufsen sound system, shouting at them just ain’t going to get the job done.

When would you need to get another driver’s attention? Megge specified, “If somebody starts to cut you off in your lane, you can give them a little honk to say ‘I’m here, don’t run into me.’”

But what about after some joker in a full-size truck has cut you off while bumping, “It’s My Life” at 100 decibels?

If you are no longer in danger, then using your horn is an act of anger. Megge singled out drivers who use their horn, “just because they’re upset with somebody.” He said, “Those are actions that are not necessary to ensure the safe operations of your vehicle.”

Long story short: laying on your horn is illegal.

Are happy beeps illegal?

The steering wheel and horn of a modern Jeep Wrangler.
Jeep Wrangler steering wheel | William Bayreuther via Unsplash

Some motorists use their horn as a safety device. Others lay their hands on their horn when angry. And some tap their horn whenever driving by a friend’s house, or to greet pedestrians they know, or thank someone for letting them merge.

You can usually tell such “happy beeps” because the driver is not laying on their horn, but tapping it–often twice in quick succession. But are these “happy beeps” also illegal?

Megge says it’s illegal when “You see and hear people honking their horn and waving at their buddy.”

And before you call Megge a grinch, consider that unnecessary horn beeping is just as much noise pollution as blasting 1980s glam metal. You may be excited to see your friend, but you don’t need to wake up the block to tell them so? You’d hate to give love a bad name.

Can you get arrested for honking your horn?

The driver of a vintage Chevrolet honking his horn at slow traffic.
Honking the horn in a vintage car | Debrocke/ClassicStock/Getty Images

I know the real question you’re asking: Can I actually get in trouble for honking my horn?

The Sun cited one example of a motorist in Britain being fined. The driver slammed on his brakes, then honked at a pedestrian crossing the street. According to the Bobbies, “he used the horn excessively and violated the law by honking from a stationary position.”

In New York City, using your horn for a non-emergency can land you a $350 fine. Not only are the good folks of the NYPD allowed to give you a ticket, but the city accepts reports of illegal “noise from a vehicle” by any average Joe.

So think twice before you honk. Or you may end up wanted…dead or alive.


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