In this morning’s paper, someone asked our local traffic columnist, Dr. Gridlock, about the proper use of hazard lights. His response was that hazard lights should only be used in case of a mechanical emergency or perhaps to notify motorists behind you of an upcoming hazard. I don’t think Northern Virginians are aware of these guidelines. Around here, people use their hazard lights to indicate when they are lost. They use them to indicate when they are posting real estate signs. They use them to indicate they are going well under the speed limit for no particular reason. And in weather like today’s snow, they use them to indicate either that they are scared by the road conditions, or just as an admission that they are not fit to be driving in snow.
Car horns are also mis-used in this area. I choose only to honk the horn as a warning to other motorists that they are about to do something stupid or hazardous. My neighbors’ friends use them when they are picking someone up at their house. usually early on a Saturday morning. My mother always taught me that was rude. You should always walk up to the door to get your passenger.
People also honk in order to startle an acquaintance as they are driving past. I find this use gratuitous. Car horns are also used at the precise instant a red light turns green. I feel quite comfortable reading or checking texts at a red light because I know my fellow travelers will let me know the second the light turns. And perhaps my least favorite use of the car horn is in an effort to move gridlocked traffic. I have news for you, Honky McHonkerson. No amount of horn blowing is going to put fewer cars on the road at 5pm.
The DMV should include the proper uses of hazard lights and car horns in their literature for new drivers. Like the proverbial Boy Who Cried Wolf and car alarms, drivers in this area have been inured to the use of these devices.