No need to use the hooter every day

What you need to know:

Deviating from the primary use, honking has become a way of displaying several expressions. Needless to say, it is becoming a menace

As you drive to join the main road, or as you drive off to a feeder road, you will definitely hear blaring horns. If it were a foreigner, they would get so startled as these are loud and come from various directions. So one wonders, are their rules or good driving practices about sounding your car’s horn?  

There is one main guideline which is supposed to be general knowledge; you should only use the horn in an emergency, to avert an imminent accident. 

The horn should be used so rarely that it stands out amid other traffic noise, and immediately grabs the attention of anyone and everyone nearby.  It is meant to be an alarm, meaning “help!” or “duck!” or “look out!”  It should only be used, instantly and instinctively, when there is about to be a crash or other calamity, and immediate preventive action is required. 

It should not be used for anything else, and it should not be used so frequently that it loses its ability to shock and alert and instead becomes a disturbance that others start to ignore.

 Outside the context of motoring, it can be used to get the attention of others to come to the rescue, or run away from a menacing threat. For example, if the car is the nearest source of a very loud noise, you can sound the horn when a child has fallen in a river, when someone has had a heart attack, or a house is on fire.

There are grey areas where the use of a horn might be justified, such as when the car ahead has had its right indicator flashing for several minutes and you want to overtake it.  If a few flashes of your lights has not woken up the driver, a beep to say “I am coming” might be warranted.  As might a beep if someone has parked across your driveway gate and failed to notice your arrival, though, strictly speaking, this is not an emergency and the issue can be resolved without hooting.

 Nervous drivers who beep at everything probably should not drive at all.  They are displaying a dangerous level of incompetence, and assuming that every other road user is equally inept.   One driver in a car sharing pool in our area became infamous because on the 10 kilometre journey from neighbourhood to town, she routinely used the horn more than a dozen times.  This, and her driving, was so distressing to the group that the rota was eventually changed so she was always in the back seat.

 Of course, horns are used (misused) more frequently than they should be, with meanings ranging from a peep-peep “hello” and “goodbye” to the long blast representing an annoyed swearword, or “wake up, the light has turned green” or “open the gate” or “get out of my way”, or as a collective cacophony in celebration of a wedding or a cup final victory parade.

 Those are technically an offence but, happily, not too serious a problem.  However, how many wish it were because they happen all too often, more so in the suburbs. In the case of a celebratory cavalcade or an election campaign, they keep moving (as far away as possible, please). 

This is not the same as compulsive hooting by anybody at everybody else in traffic, or the thankfully ended “customer-calling” habits of matatus, nor the hugely amplified and often hours-long harangue, in one static place, inflicted on every ear for miles around by political orators.  

Apart from any letters of the law (National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has banned loudspeakers in most places, I believe) conduct should be guided by the single most universal multi-denominational or non-denominational moral question: “If everybody did what I am now doing, what would the world be like?  Would the social system still work?”

Uganda is quite good at hooting traffic, very bad in the use of PA systems. Unwarranted noise has become a serious pollutant, second only to greenhouse gasses.   Keep using your car when you must, but do not use the hooter. Ration yourself to once or twice per year.


The purpose of blowing a horn is to communicate to other drivers and road users about your intentions or to alert them of an impending danger. The appropriate use is to sound a horn which is just audible and only when required. Oblivious to this, our drivers are incessantly jabbing on their horn pads.

Not only does such unnecessary honking add to the noise pollution but it also adds to the stress level of the city dwellers.

So, why this inappropriate use of horns? Ostensibly, it is the lack of awareness amongst the drivers about the negative effects of blowing horns, in addition to the dearth of social ethics.

Adopted from


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