Whether it’s an air horn or a novelty horn, your car’s beep machine says a lot about you and your car’s personality. However, when you honk your horn you need to remember, it’s also the driving equivalent of yelling at someone on a train! As a result, there are rules around when you can and cannot use your horn – with some pretty hefty fines for breaking them.

So, when exactly is it illegal to honk your horn? Here are the dos and don’ts in Australia.

honk your horn

When is it legal to honk your horn?

There are generally only three reasons you should be using your car’s horn, or a similar warning device. They are:

  • To warn other drivers that your vehicle is approaching,
  • To try and get animals off the road, and
  • As part of an anti-theft or alcohol interlock device.

Under the first point, you can use your car’s horn to alert someone you’re overtaking, when there’s a chance of an accident, or when someone is blocking your way.

When is it illegal to honk your horn?

It’s illegal to use your horn for any reason other than those listed above. This applies in every state and territory in Australia, and both police and the courts are pretty harsh on it. A few situations it is illegal to use a horn include:

  • Beeping aggressively at drivers that have annoyed you,
  • Honking at pedestrians or cyclists when there is no risk of collision, and
  • A friendly beep to a passing friend.

Each of these situations are instances of road rage, or risk your horn being misinterpreted as an emergency. Road rage is a particularly problem, as driving angry can increase your risk of a crash by up to 10 times.

Penalties for using your horn inappropriately

The penalties for honking your horn at the wrong time vary greatly by state. As of May 2019, here are the potential punishments:

Be more chill, be more safe

The key to using your horn legally is to keep your temper while driving. Road rage is the main reason people use their horns illegally, and is a major hazard on its own. Staying off your horn both helps you keep your cool and prevents other drivers from getting angsty.

Of course in an emergency, use your horn! If you need to use your horn in a non-emergency, try to go for a short beep, rather than a long blast.

An angry driver with road rage using his car horn illegally

Image: Jon Collier

About Tim Beau Bennett

Tim is an ex-journalist and radio presenter, and has been a professional writer for over a decade. He regularly writes about technology, lifestyle, and smart cities, and has written for news site including the ABC, SBS, and Australian Financial Review.