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Signals can mislead: part 2

logo of the IAMThe following advice comes from the IAM Advanced Driver�s Manual:

The horn

The horn should be sounded only if you need to warn other road users of your presence. It should be used sparingly, but you should not be reluctant to use it firmly at the right time as it can be a life-saver. It is illegal, except in an emergency to avoid an accident, to sound your horn between 11.30 p.m. and 7.00 a.m. in a built-up area, or if your car is stationary.
There are three situations when using the horn should be considered. First, it can serve as a warning of your approach when the view ahead is very limited, perhaps before a blind bend on a narrow lane or when nearing a dangerous crossroads where the side roads are obscured by hedges.
Second, the horn can be valuable when another road user is vulnerable despite your safety precautions � children, cyclists and pedestrians might benefit.
Third, a firm but polite note on the horn can be used when you are about to overtake another vehicle whose driver may not have noticed you � this is often appropriate when passing a large truck or tractor.
Do not assume that your horn will have been heard. The person you are aiming it at may be deaf or may have the car radio turned up loud.
Never use the horn as a substitute for the observation, planning and courtesy which are the mark of a good driver. Remember that British drivers seem far more ready than their continental counterparts to take offence at the sound of a horn, so use it with discretion. If they think that a note on the horn is not delivered politely, some drivers take it as a reprimand, a challenge or an insult, and react accordingly.
Thoughtful and courteous use of the horn is what counts. You may not use it often, but to believe that it should never be used is a mistake.

Headlight flashing

Headlight flashes should be used only for one purpose: to inform other road users that you are there. Headlight flashes are useful when the horn would not be heard and in place of the horn at night. Use good judgement to decide the timing and duration of the flash.
Any other use of headlight flashing gives rise to confusion because your message might be interpreted as meaning something quite different. Attempting to give an order (�get out of my way�), offer an invitation (�you may come through this gap I have left�), issue a rebuke (�your bad driving has just caused me to brake�) or make an acknowledgement (�thank you for waiting�) can be misunderstood. Never assume that it is safe to proceed as a result of a flash from another motorist � this is well-meaning but the driver may have made an error of judgement.
Before overtaking, a headlight flash can be helpful if you think the other driver is unaware of your intention. Headlight flashing at night can usefully emphasise your presence. Consider it on the approach to a hump-back bridge, a blind bend or a sharp crest on a narrow road. But do not give these signals if they might be misunderstood by road users for whom they are not intended.
Truck drivers have their own headlight code, whereby one driver tells another overtaking driver when it is safe to pull back to the nearside. As a car driver there is no need for you to adopt this practice: imagine the distracting light show that would occur on motorways and dual-carriageways if everyone did it.
MATLOCK (Derwent and Hope Valleys) Group of Advanced Motorists Tel 01629 812732

photo of car on railings