Reading a recent poll about Northwest drivers and their honking habits, you might assume that we are all pretty decent on the road. This is because, according to this survey, we don’t honk all that much out here.
But, actually, that’s not the case. We may be passive, but we are passive-aggressive. And I argue that makes us the rudest drivers on the road.
Let me draw from my travels to explain. When I was 25, I went on my honeymoon. It was a road trip starting in New York City. I remember getting in the car on a Saturday morning and it was gridlock getting out of Manhattan. Everyone was laying on the horn. You could be completely boxed in, cars on the sides and the front and back – honk, honk, honk. And I loved it. I started honking constantly.
I’ve gone 110 miles an hour on the Autobahn through Germany. One time there was a Mercedes flying up behind me, flashing its lights. You know what I did? I moved over and let him go by. That’s what you do there. Everyone is cool with that.
None of that would happen in the Northwest; we don’t communicate like that on the road. PEMCO surveyed cities all across the country and they found that Seattle — and the entire Puget Sound area — is the most reluctant to use their car horns; three out of four drivers refuse to honk their horn. The majority of drivers felt that honking was a bad thing. Yet at the same time, we think honking is a great way to inform other drivers about their behavior. And if we are honked at, 38 percent of us get mad about it or don’t react at all.
Here’s the thing – none of this accounts for how passive aggressive we are around here. Think about drivers on the Autobahn flashing their lights behind cars. If anybody did that around Western Washington, they would never pull over for the car flashing its lights, because “I’m going to stay in the left lane — he’s speeding and we shouldn’t let him speed.”
There’s no symphony of honks through downtown Seattle when drivers are bumper-to-bumper like in Manhattan. We find other ways to make drivers miserable on the road. Being so passive aggressive actually makes us the rudest drivers on the road.
Honk away, Northwest drivers
We should honk more in Seattle. If not only because people deserve it and need to know as much.
I was crossing the ship canal bridge the other day. I’m going about 45 mph in the far right lane exit and a guy pulls right in front of me who had been stopped in the next lane. I had to slam on my brakes. While I’m slamming on the brakes — and my gym bag is flying onto the ground spilling my shampoo and socks everywhere — I’m laying on the horn letting him know what an idiot he is. I’m furious and I’m laying on the horn, taking it out on him.
This morning, I get off the freeway and I’m at a red light, and the person in front of me is buried in their phone. I gave them two seconds of horn for that. How about a person doesn’t use their phone while driving and doesn’t make me wait? Even though I’ve done it myself and I’ve been honked at for it. But you know what, I give them the “I’m sorry wave.”
How is the honker the rude one in any of these exchanges? We, in the Northwest, are the most passive aggressive, rudest non-honkers in the country.