Millions of people walk the streets of New York City every day. Amidst the hustle and bustle of foot traffic is the sound of the city’s street traffic, which often includes the incessant blaring of car horns.
A recent Reddit post posed the question of what the city would sound like if everyone who honked their horns was fined. In the post, the author said it’s illegal for drivers to honk their horns in New York City.
Is honking illegal in New York City?
Yes, it’s illegal for drivers to honk their horns in New York City except in an emergency.
WHAT WE FOUND
Section 24-237 of New York City’s code says: “No person shall operate or use or cause to be operated or used any claxon installed on a motor vehicle, except as a sound signal of imminent danger or in connection with use as an audible motor vehicle burglar alarm.”
The city’s website has a page where people can report a noisy vehicle, including horn honking.
“You can report noise from a vehicle caused by an idling engine, loud music, or horn honking,” the website says. “Horn honking is only allowed as a warning of danger.”
Drivers who are caught inappropriately using their horns could face a fine of $350.
In the 1980s, a man who was cited for illegal honking challenged the ordinance in court. He argued the restriction violated his free speech rights. But a federal district court judge ruled the law did not violate the First Amendment. The judge also argued the impact of the law could serve the city’s interests by reducing unnecessary noise.
More than 30 years later, noise remains a problem in New York City. Researchers at New York University published a study in 2019 that found noise isthe number one complaint to the city’s 311 non-emergency line.
In a January 2018 report assessing noise in the city, the Office of the New York State Comptroller said there were 1.6 million noise complaints made to the 311 line between 2010 and 2015.
About 1% of those complaints were specific to honking. According to the report, from 2010 through 2015, 15,959 complaints were made to the city’s 311 line about horn honking, with the number of complaints jumping from 1,894 in 2012 to 4,450 in 2015. The New York Police Department confirmed noise in 17% of the horn-honking complaints and issued 113 summonses, the report said.
So, while honking is illegal in New York City, the law is seldom enforced.