Have you ever been out driving and noticed one of those "Honk! If you loHonk Sticker by DLWve…" bumper stickers? Ever give-in to the temptation to honk, only to have the other driver give you that glaring look of disgust? Okay, so he forgot all about the bumper sticker, it happens.

Honk by DLW and BCWIf you're a Californian, consider yourself lucky if all you get is a dirty look after honking your horn. In the Golden State, honking your vehicle's horn for any reason other than to avoid a collision is a traffic violation.

According to The State of California's 2010 Driver Handbook, these are the rules regarding the use of your vehicle's horn while driving;

Acceptable uses of the horn:

  • To avoid collisions
  • To try to make eye contact with other drivers, who may turn in front of you and cause a collision
  • On narrow mountain roads, where you cannot see at least 200 feet in front of you

Unacceptable uses of the horn:

  • If someone is driving too slowly
  • To alert another driver that he or she has made a driving mistake
  • Because you are angry
  • You should not honk at pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists, unless necessary to avoid a collision
  • You should not honk your horn at a blind person ("The blind person has no idea who you are honking at and may be startled by the noise.")

The informational booklet, "Driving in California," published by the Auto Club states; "Sound your horn as a safety warning, and at no other time."

I wonder just how many Californians are aware of these rules. I sure wasn't, until a specific incident happened to me a couple of years ago. I was on my way to, of all places, the Department of Motor Vehicles, with my sixteen year old daughter. She was about to take her driving test and hopefully get her license.

We were only a few blocks away, when I noticed an elderly man several feet in front of us, walking a bicycle across the road. He was coming from the left side of a very busy road and, although there were no crosswalks, I knew I had to stop and give him the right-of-way.

I slowed down then stopped to allow the (slow) walker across. There were cars on my right side buzzing by, they either didn't see the man or didn't care. It wasn't until the walker was directly in front of my car did the cars to the right of me finally stop.

As the pedestrian passed my car, I continued waiting while he continued crossing. As I watched the elderly man, I was startled by an extremely loud and long HONK!!! Then a second one!

I looked in my rearview mirror and caught a glimpse of a young man, in a pick-up truck, shaking his fists and mouthing words that I would never ever think to say to anyone! I pointed to the walker, who at this time was nearing the sidewalk, but the irate truck driver didn't care, he continued to honk.

Once the walker was safely on the sidewalk, I continued on my way. We were so close to our destination; "why," I thought, "why did that truck driver have to be so rude!"

I looked in my rearview mirror once again and this time, I saw the truck veering over to the right-hand lane. "Oh, great," I thought, "now he's going to drive up beside me and make some obscene gesture or yell something, or worse, have some type of major road rage. You read about these things in the newspaper all the time!

I continued driving and stayed calm (for my daughter's sake), and thought to myself, "I hope this guy doesn't follow me to the DMV and cause a scene!" It's amazing how many scenarios can flash through your mind in a short amount of time.

There I was, driving and waiting for the truck to pull-up beside me, I was getting closer and closer to my destination, but the truck failed to appear. "Where is he?" I thought. "Why isn't he next to me yet?" It seemed like such a long time, so I looked in my rearview mirror again and this time I saw something wonderful!

The pick-up truck was several feet behind me, parked next to a curb, and directly behind him was the best thing that I could have seen at that moment: a local police car with its lights flashing! "Yes!" I said out-loud. I was ecstatic!

I can't tell you the number of times I've been on the road and said to myself, or to others, "I wish a police was around!" Because someone was either driving recklessly or doing something they shouldn't. But, not this time! This time the police were around and I didn't even realize the truck driver was breaking any laws!

We finally got to our destination and went inside. As my daughter was taking her test, I sat by a window and watched as the police officer stood by the truck. I could only imagine what he was saying. Then I watched the pick-up truck as it finally drove away, and I felt a sigh of relief. I was happy the driver was gone and the situation was over!

That evening, when my husband got home from the office, my daughter proudly displayed her temporary licenses and told him all about her test. Then, we both told him what happened on the way to the DMV.

Every now and again, I think back and wonder if the truck driver learned a lesson. But even if he didn't, I did. In the past, I have been guilty of honking for reasons other than for safety. Now, I resist that temptation!

So, when in California, if you see a "Honk! If you love…" bumper sticker, ignore it! Because if you honk, the bumper sticker might as well say "Honk! If you love being pulled-over by the police, getting a ticket and paying a fine!"