The Ahem Signal
Reader Jesse asks a question about a situation that occurs regularly in traffic:
I saw a car today stuck behind an SUV. The car wanted to turn right at a red light, but the SUV was sitting there waiting for the green.
It was obvious that the car wanted to turn right, he had his signal on, he would creep up a few inches every now and then, and he was making moves to creep by the SUV, but did not have enough room. And I thought, I’m sure if the driver of the car could politely ask to get by the SUV would let him. But with his other methods of communicating failing (turn signal, creeping), the only thing left would be honking.
Honking is pushy. I thought, what if there were other audible signals? Something less pushy that sounded more like an ‘excuse me’ than a “HEY!” Has anything like that been attempted or marketed?
While I know of other alternative signaling systems that have been tried, I’m not aware of anything on this order. Of course, with existing horns, there’s a certain range of expression — the quick tap generally means something different, or is expressed differently at least — than the long blast.
But it is difficult to send a precise message with a horn, and if the person doesn’t understand what they are being asked to do, confusion and perhaps hostility will ensue. One reason this sort of thing is easier dealt with outside the car is that we can gesture with our eyes – we have white sclera in our eyes precisely for this reason, some have theorized — and indicate what we are asking of a person and boost the chances for cooperation.
This raises another point; in New York City, as no doubt elsewhere, we could use a quieter, secondary horn — sort of an “ahem signal” — for reminding people to move when the light has turned green. Sure, there’s the headlight flash option, but that assumes the driver ahead is looking in the rear-view mirror. Of course, when I see the person ahead is on a phone, the loud blast comes in quite handy.
This entry was posted on Friday, April 24th, 2009 at 4:33 pm and is filed under Cars, Drivers, Traffic Culture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.