By Alan Sidorov
It seems there are two kinds of drivers, those who use their car horns sparingly and those whose fingers never seem to leave the noisemaker buttons. I readily admit to preferring the former over the latter. It’s not that the horn doesn’t have its uses, such as alerting an inattentive driver that he or she is about to back into your car. In general, though, excessive use of the horn is a form of road rage, a mechanical counterpart to whatever words the driver may be mouthing inside the car.
Motorists who use their car horns too much remind me of certain drivers I encountered on the racetrack, who let their emotions rule, and spent far too much time waving fists at fellow racers. Few of them had much of a career. All those angry gestures took concentration away from the task at hand. They were also a sign to the rest of us that here was a competitor who could be forced into making mistakes. We took full advantage of the situation. Go to any major city and you’ll hear an awful lot of unnecessary honking. This is like the story of the boy who cried wolf. After a while, nobody pays attention. Besides, the mental energy would be far better directed towards simply piloting the car.
There is a Zen element to this, and it is the skill of letting things go. Whatever you may think of another driver’s performance, that is already in the past and as such, irrelevant. Think of it as water flowing down a stream. Besides, if the other driver is a bit of a sicko, bad things might happen. Two recent incidents that occurred here in British Columbia serve as highlights.
In the first, an on-road altercation led to a heated argument. One of the drivers received several stab wounds as a result. The second incident involved an angry motorist attacking a car with a tire iron, smashing windows and headlights. Sadly, these are not isolated affairs. As our lives become busier, the anonymity of the road seems to provide an outlet for some people to express frustration in a distinctly anti-social fashion.
We all lose our cool sometimes, and there may even be moments when giving another driver a blast from the horn could be considered therapeutic. If it is happening too often, though, consider it a bad sign about your state of mind. Professional drivers master a form of detachment, or unwillingness to let emotions rule, that would be wonderful to have in other circumstances. This is a worthwhile lesson for any motorist. A healthy attitude is a key part of being a good driver. The horn in my car was used once last year, and that was only to check that it was working. The expression “give someone a piece of your mind” seems a fair description of what the frequent honker is doing. You can only afford to give away so many bits. Our roads would be considerably more pleasant if we cut back on the noise pollution, got rid of some of that angry internal dialogue, and left endless honking to the geese in the city park.
Alan Sidorov is a professional racing driver, advanced driving instructor, development tester, and automotive journalist. He runs SPDT Performance Driving Technologies and Sidorov Advanced Driver Training, based in Whistler, British Columbia. The web site is http://www.spdt.ca, or http://www.sidorovprecisiondrivertraining.ca