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Motor Mouth articles 2007

A survey not worth two hoots

Think twice before you hit the hooter

ACCORDING to the latest bit of motoring nonsense to land digitally on my virtual desk courtesy of some slavering PR outfit desperate to blag some publicity for its client, drivers in London are the most patriotic in the land because – wait for it – 29 per cent say they would beep their horns if England won the World Cup.

By the same yardstick, the least patriotic are said to be the Welsh, of whom only two per cent would reach for their hooter.

Now if we’re talking football cups here, I should think the other 98 per cent of Welsh motorists would probably be unable to take any sort of celebratory action as they would be deep in some sort of shock-induced coma, soccer standards in the principality being marooned in deep doldrums somewhere between Cyprus and San Marino.

But, being characteristically charitable, even if we’re talking rugby here, a sport at which the Welsh are sometimes quite good, there is probably no need to start limbering up for a hooter-fest for a few years yet, boyo.

What’s all this about, I hear you ask. Well, absurd though it sounds, all this drivel is contained in a press release on behalf of an insurance company concerning a survey on horn beeping, which has evidently been identified – alongside terrorism, global warming and escalating street crime, presumably – as one of the major issues troubling mankind in the 21st century.

We are informed that 90 per cent of British drivers regularly disobey the Highway Code by using their horn inappropriately – a tooting total of more than 30 billion hoots a year.

We hoot to express our annoyance at other motorists trying to push into a queue at the last moment, or parking in a disabled bay when they’re able-bodied, or pulling out in front of us or failing to indicate when turning.

But if sounding the horn releases a driver’s anger and frustration, it also causes fury and resentment in the victims, 75 per cent of whom say it contributes to road rage. Many others feel insulted or stressed.

Nearly half the motorists quizzed for this particular survey favoured the idea of a two-tier horn, with a conventional sound and a milder, less aggressive tone aimed at alerting other drivers without causing ‘negative feelings’. Popular sounds suggested included a roaring lion, a mooing cow, a hooting owl and a trumpeting elephant.

Wait – there’s more. Returning to regional comparisons, the report says Londoners are the least patient motorists, with 36 per cent claiming they toot their horn at least once or twice in the rush hour; 12 per cent toot simply out of boredom.

The least stressed-out drivers are those in the south-west and East Anglia, where 82 per cent of drivers reckon they never beep their horns during rush hour. But then again, no-one much rushes in the south-west or East Anglia.

The statistics that most surprised me – or would have done had I taken any of it the slightest bit seriously – was that drivers, on average, sound their horns three times a day. I have been known to grump to myself, mumble the odd oath, and issue the occasional black look, but I don’t reckon I sound my horn three times in a year, let alone in a day. 

Incidentally, in case anyone is still awake, the Highway Code says you should never sound your horn when stationary or in a built-up area between 11.30pm and 7am unless there is a real danger.

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