Ask a Trooper: When and when not to use horn

Published 5:36 pm Tuesday, October 11, 2022

By Sgt. Troy Christianson

Question: A friend recently told me that it’s illegal to honk your car horn in Minnesota (he showed me an internet article). I find this hard to believe. So many friends and family members drive by our house, giving their horn a little honk and waving; is this illegal? What if you’re behind someone at a stoplight who hasn’t noticed the light turned green — is it illegal to tap your horn to alert them? And what about those car alarms that start honking if they sense an intruder?  Please explain. Thank you.

Answer: Minnesota state law says, “Every motor vehicle when operated upon a highway must be equipped with a horn in good working order and capable of emitting sound audible under normal conditions from a distance of not less than 200 feet.

However, the horn or other warning device must not emit an unreasonably loud or harsh sound or a whistle. The driver of a motor vehicle shall, when reasonably necessary to insure safe operation, give audible warning with the horn, but shall not otherwise use the horn when upon a highway.”

As stated, a motor vehicle’s horn is to be used when to “insure safe operation.” I believe it is worded as this to help prevent and reduce the unnecessary honking to help avoid annoyance and harassment. By using the horn for potential safety issues it can help keep people alert and safe. As you mentioned being behind someone at a stoplight and they don’t notice the light turning green. Does sounding the horn help with safety?

Car alarms are legal. A person may want to check with their local laws and ordinances to see if there are any additional requirements and responsibilities.

You can avoid a ticket — and a crash — if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and always drive sober. Help us drive Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson – Minnesota State Patrol at 2900 48th Street NW, Rochester MN 55901-5848. (Or reach him at, Troy.Christianson@state.mn.us)