Yesterday the Taxi and Limousine Commission issued forth a controversial missive to the city’s 13,000 cabbies. “Drivers — remember that honking is against the law except when warning of imminent danger!” it said, continuing, “be a good neighbor and save yourself a $350 summons — honk ONLY in an emergency!” Emergencies include honking to avoid a crash and “to warn someone of a dangerous situation,” a statement that could be applied quite liberally to cab transit in the city. Honking is NOT to make traffic move faster or because you are angry, the TLC instructs.
Because formal enforcement of this rule seems unlikely (for one, can you even identify the inappropriate honker when everyone is honking?), passengers have also been asked to narc on honk-happy cabbies by reporting them to 311.
We’re sort of conflicted about his, however. Honking, from cabbies or otherwise, is one of those sounds of the city that, sure, we could do without but have probably in some way become immune to at this point — like sirens, car alarms, that truck-backing-up noise, and vehicles going by blasting their music; like the upstairs neighbor moving furniture; like babies crying; like planes flying overhead; like the omnipresent jingle of the ice cream man — noise is a fact of life in the city, and without it, how would we know we’re not in Middleton, Wisconsin? But, we also agree, if we all honked a little bit less, there would be room to hear a little bit more. What would we hear, and would we complain about that, too? Probably.
Cabbies, or at least those the Daily News spoke to, say they should have the freedom to honk as part of their business plan: They have “got to be more aggressive to make money.” According to another, “If you don’t honk, people get in the way. In Times Square, people cross in the middle of the street.”
But do people get out of the way because of the honking, or because of the speeding cab aimed directly for them? There should be a fine against that! No one wants to be the cabbie that honked wolf.
Let’s compare crimes: Not going to Brooklyn: $500 fine (first offense); $1,000 (second). Honking not in an emergency: $350 fine. Yelling “Stop your goddamn honking!” out the window plaintively: No fine whatsoever. Yet.
We would honk, but all we have is our vuvuzela with which to mark the days until the “low-annoyance” taxi horn.