By Lauren Ferrone
Published: Tuesday, October 5, 2021
Chances are you’ve lightly tapped your car horn to greet or farewell someone. It might seem like an innocent gesture, but you’d be wise to think twice next time as you’re actually committing a lesser-known offence. Here’s why.
While kindness isn’t a crime, misusing your car horn is. Under the Australian Road Rules, beeping to say hello or goodbye is considered an unlawful way to use this safety device, and you could be handed a hefty $293 fine, plus a $92 Victims of Crime Levy.
In fact, motorists mustn’t use their car horn to create unnecessary noise, which can be distracting for other road users.
Other than beeping g’day or farewell, motorists shouldn’t sound their horn for longer than needed. That includes a drawn-out beep to express your feelings if someone cuts in front of you.
RAA Senior Manager of Safety and Infrastructure Charles Mountain says using your car horn in an aggressive manner is distracting and dangerous.
Road rage comes in many forms and misusing your car horn to intimidate is one of them.
According to South Australian Police (SAPOL) figures obtained by RAA, over the past five years there were 228 offences committed by motorists for using their car horn illegally.
Hefty horn penalties
The total amount of fines handed down to drivers for misusing the horn over the past five years.
So, when can I use my horn?
Rest assured; this safety device wasn’t fitted in cars to make noise for no reason.
By law, motorists can toot their horn to warn an animal on the road of their presence.
“In this situation, slow down, sound the horn and flash your lights rather than attempting to swerve around the animal,” Mr Mountain says.
You can also beep briefly to warn pedestrians you’re about to reverse, including when you’re backing out of a driveway or car park.
Just be sure to check your blind spot for pedestrians and obstructions before putting your vehicle in reverse.
“Don’t start moving if pedestrians are behind you or about to walk behind your vehicle, Mr Mountain says. “In this case, sound the horn to warn them of your intention.”
While you might not always be fined for a quick toot here and there, it’s best not to push your luck – or the horn.
“Get into the habit of only using your horn as a warning device so you’re not creating unnecessary distractions on the road,” Mr Mountain says.