Saturday, February 4, 2012

Don't Honk?

Posted by Deirdre Oakley, NEW YORK, NY -- The Big Apple has had a "Don't Honk" law on the books since the 1980s but the ordinance hasn't stopped the sound of car horns that so famously characterize this city's streets. A few years back the city decided to put up "Don't Honk" signs in about 1000 locations. As the signs indicate the penalty is $350...if you get caught. In fact, according to a recent Gothamist article by Jaya Saxena, police give out a mere 400 tickets every year for honking and many citizens find the signs laughable.  I have to admit, the first time I saw one of these signs not too long ago my first reaction was "you've got to be kidding!" I even asked my cab driver if anyone pays attention to them. Over the din of car horns he said, "well...occassionally."

But some are taking the law seriously.  Last fall NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission Chief, David Yassky, reminded 13,000 cab drivers about the Don't Honk law. And authorities are encouraging drivers and passengers alike to call the city's 311 line to report honkers.  A recent Sodahead post reported that the step up on anti-honking happened around the same time that the city decided to take all the trash cans out of subway stations in an effort to curtail the rat problem. Well, as an ex-New Yorker myself I find it hard to imagine a silent Big Apple with no rats. I don't think I'll miss the rats, but I have always found something comforting about taking a cab from the airport to my old city listening to the rhythmic sounds of diversely-pitched car horns.
Deirdre Oakley is the Editor of Social Shutter and an Associate Professor in the Sociology Department at Georgia State University. She can be reached at

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