It almost feels second nature to give a friend a quick beep of the horn if you pass each other on the road. It’s something that everyone does regularly without thinking.
Yet, this innocuous little action could end up costing you thousands in penalty fines as it is actually illegal to do anywhere in Australia.
State laws across the country forbid using your car horn outside of warning motorists of any impending dangers on the road. But just what are the potential consequences for beeping the horn incorrectly?
When can you use your car horn?
Despite every state having a slight variation on the ruling, the regulations are generally the same across the country. Most road laws state that your horn can only be used to:
Warn motorists of your position in hazardous areas or conditions
Warn others about animals, debris, or other hazards on the road
If it has been installed as an anti-theft mechanism
It’s surprising how little you can use the horn for and the rules are pretty black and white. Should you use your car horn for anything else – then you are technically breaking the law.
This could be anything from just a quick toot to say goodbye as you leave a friend’s house or if you pass someone you know at your local shopping centre car park.
What is the cost of illegally using the car horn?
It’s here where things can get tricky as different Aussie states have taken different approaches to the issue.
Some states have a fixed price for the exact infringement where a general fine costs you several hundreds of dollars. These instances include:
NSW: The punishment for “use of a horn or warning device unnecessarily” is a $344 fine.
VIC: Anyone caught “using a horn or warning device incorrectly” faces a fine of one penalty unit which is currently $181.
TAS: For anyone who “uses or allows the use of a horn unnecessarily,” they will cop a fine of $130.
SA: The fine for anyone “using a horn when not permitted to do so” will be fined $193 plus a Victims of Crimes Levy which could total up to $250.
WA: The state has the most lenient fine in Australia for “unpermitted horn use” with drivers issued a modified penalty of $50.
A few states have varying rates of fines for using your horn inappropriately depending on the situation. Some of these fines could be tremendously large, particularly if your matter ends up in court:
QLD: Anyone caught breaching the 2009 Transport Operations Regulations rules is liable for a fine worth up to 20 penalty units. With one penalty unit currently sitting at $137, then the maximum fine could stretch to $2,740.
ACT: Anyone caught using their horn illegally in the ACT will find themselves with a maximum penalty of 20 penalty units. At the moment, one penalty unit is $160 so the maximum fine could be a staggering $3,200.
NT: Incorrectly using a horn falls under the “general penalties” section of the 2007 Traffic Regulations Act. This means that offenders could face a fine of 20 penalty units ($3,140) or even six months in prison.
Whilst these fines are not issued regularly, it’s wise to think about the potential consequence of beeping at a mate.
Strange road rules across Australia
Friendly horn beeps aren’t the only strange road rules plaguing Australian motorists.
Throughout the country, there are a host of bizarre rules that not many people are aware of. Some of these weird road rules include:
In NSW, it is illegal to soak bus passengers with mud if they are waiting at the bus stop. Worth 1 penalty unit, this is a very specific rule as splashing waiting passengers with puddles is perfectly legal as long as they aren’t muddy.
QLD has a rule where animals get the right of way over a motorist as drivers must give way to a restive horse if near their vehicle. The confusing wordings to this term mean that you need to let agitated horses pass by before moving on.
Tasmania's legislators are fans of technology on the road as it is illegal to use permanent sat nav systems or navigation apps on your phone. However, portable navigational devices are allowed providing a sneakily obvious loophole.
WA has a rule still on the books that dates back to the 1920s. It is illegal for motorists to carry 50kg of potatoes in their car unless they are a member of a potato corporation. This comes with a hefty fine too as offenders will be fined $2,500 if they are caught and $5,000 if they re-offend.
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