Manufacturers should hone horn location


I'd love to go back in time and eavesdrop on the engineers who designed the common car horn. Let's put it in the center of the steering wheel and make it really big, one would say.

No, another would argue. That's too easy to hit. Let's make it really hard to find ... that'll be much more fun.

Better yet, a third would chime in and say, "Let's design it so that the driver only hits it by accident when she's parallel parking."

I used to think this was a whimsical conversation, fueled by my frustration with car horns in general. But after years of dealing with it, I'm almost convinced that this really is the way the conversation must have taken place because it's the only explanation I can come up with for the reason that few, if any, vehicles do the horn thing exactly the same way.

Most people think of a horn as something to warn people, or vent frustration, or at least show off the fact they've just tied the knot (not necessarily in that order).

But the nice folks who came up with the game plan for my horn apparently had other ideas. Because, using my horn for its purpose is almost impossible.

It consists of two tiny, almost recessed, buttons buried somewhere on the nether half of my steering wheel. I can barely find them in broad daylight when I'm looking right at them. And yet, in an emergency, whether it's day or night, I'm somehow supposed to ward off death by magically hitting them.

Let me just say, for the record, that this is not what happens. Instead, it generally goes something like this:

1.) I see a car/pedestrian about to cross my path faster than I can avoid them.

2.) A numb expression comes over my face, as I silently watch the car/pedestrian get closer and closer, and my hand reaches for the horn and misses.

3.) The accident is miraculously, narrowly averted, thanks to either my brakes or theirs, and I just stare at the other person, mute, and still unable to find my horn, even to express my displeasure with their lack of navigational skills.

4.) And, finally, disaster averted, we each head our separate ways, with me wondering for the rest of the day whether the other person realizes what they just did, and whether they think my silence means I somehow think what just happened was my fault or that I'm OK with it. "Welcome to Los Angeles!"

All in all it's unsafe, and, frankly, unsatisfying even after avoiding one. How else does one relieve that shaky, adrenaline-fueled rush of anger and indignation after escaping death other than by bearing down on the horn and letting the other person know how you feel? It's a queasy feeling and without the horn, it just swirls around inside me for hours after.

The other day, a teen pulled out of a parking lot and attempted to sneak across the street to a back lane on the other side. Only problem was, I was in his way. There was no way I could know he would just pull out in front of me. What sane person would do that? But for some reason, he didn't see me coming. Either he didn't look, or he decided I was invisible, and next thing I know I've nearly sprained my ankle hitting the brakes so hard. We froze like that, in the middle of the street, the driver's door an inch away from the front of my car, and we just stared at each other for a long second.

I would have liked to have honked at him right then. If we had been a fraction of a second off, he would have become my new hood ornament. And I would have preferred to express that sentiment with a few good, long, angry beeps.

But I couldn't locate the horn in any sort of timely fashion, and I still don't know if he realizes what he did, or how close he came to dying that night ... because I couldn't tell him.

I would, however, like to throw in a couple of words to the folks who design car horns. Please get together and come up with a common location so that when a person leaves his or her vehicle at home, travels somewhere, and either rents or borrows a friend's car, that they instinctively know where the horn button is.

And in case I'm not being clear enough, let me put that in terms that everyone will understand: Beep! Beep beep beep beep! Beeeeeeeeep!

Among her numerous accomplishments, Courtney Hansen is the author of "Garage Girl's Guide to Everything you Need to Know About Your Car," the host of Spike TV's "Power Block," the former host of TLC's "Overhaulin'"program and a writer with Wheelbase Media and Auto Shift Weekly magazine. You can email her by logging on to www.wheelbase.ws and using the contact link.

 

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