The "Car Horn" Traffic Ticket Revisited

Written by Gregory Monte.

This post follows up on yesterday’s discussion about when motorists are not allowed to use their car horns: Unreasonable Use of Your Car Horn?

I closed that post as follows:

“In summary, good luck trying to fight a “horn ticket” unless you used it in an emergency type situation where there was some obvious danger.  Being stuck behind some jerk who continues to read his texts even after the light turns green doesn’t count.”

I came to that conclusion because of the opinion in People v. Velazquez, 2019 NY Slip Op 29166 – NY: City Court, Criminal Court 2019 which allows the use of a car horn only if it is an emergency:

“… the statute mandates every motor vehicle to have a horn that can sound a danger warning; and the statute further proscribes that horn from being used ‘other than as a reasonable [danger] warning … Thus, despite its frequent use in the city, honking is a traffic infraction if used in a non-emergency situation.”


Not So Fast …

The judge in that opinion seems pretty sure of himself, doesn’t he?

“[H]onking is a traffic infraction if used in a non-emergency situation.”

But how can that opinion be squared with the plain meaning of the following New York statute Title 7, Article 25, Section 1122:

“… the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle on audible signal and shall not increase the speed of his vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.”

Would you not agree that this statute allows the use of a horn for reasons other than an emergency … like when a driver is overtaking another vehicle? What other “audible signal” could the law be talking about?

I actually discussed the various state laws about passing several months ago (Impatient Driver Flashing High Beams Behind You? It’s legal, and you are required to move over) but didn’t make the connection to the use of a horn for emergency purposes until now.

The way I see it, there is only one way to square the judge’s opinion with the statute.  The audible signal you give when overtaking another vehicle is classified as a danger/warning signal. 


Beating a Traffic Ticket Using a Technicality

If you read my blog you know that I am obsessed with finding technicalities in the law that will help people beat their traffic tickets.  Yesterday’s blog post was a disappointment because I concluded that there was basically no way to get out of a “car horn” ticket.   But when you combine yesterday’s post with my Impatient Driver post from back in June, there is actually a potential technicality after all … a glimmer of hope.

Unfortunately, it is a very slight glimmer, but I would probably give it a try if I ever received a ticket for blowing my horn at an intersection.  I would tell the judge that I sounded the horn because I was going to “overtake” and pass the stopped car on the left.  Because this activity is sanctioned by statute (Title 7, Article 25, Section 1122), the judge may go for it. 

Again, I realize that this would be a long shot, but so was my son’s eventual victory in his stop sign ticket charge.  He won on a technicality even though he didn’t really come to a full stop.  So, in my opinion, it’s worth a shot.


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