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Beep Beep

Posted 6/11/21

Summer in Sullivan County is coming and with it are warm sunny days, fresh air, the sweet sound of songbirds, cooling dips in the lakes and the smoky smells of barbeques wafting over our mountains. …

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Beep Beep

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Summer in Sullivan County is coming and with it are warm sunny days, fresh air, the sweet sound of songbirds, cooling dips in the lakes and the smoky smells of barbeques wafting over our mountains. Summer also brings with it thousands of drivers who are unfamiliar with our roads. The twists and turns of our roads through our idyllic countryside, while familiar to us, present a driving challenge to many of our visitors who get behind the wheel only for a few months a year. While our “summer people” are great for our economy and recognition of our county, many of their driving habits are not so great for our blood pressure and proliferation of foul language. Sudden stops, lack of turn directional usage and poor navigating of our roads create frustrating challenges for many of us driving behind them. That brings me to the subject of my column, “Beep Beep.” This has nothing to do with the frustrating challenges facing Wile E. Coyote as he pursues the Road Runner in the classic cartoon series. This column is about the car horn and suggested etiquette. In the late 1800’s, the British set an early precedent for horn usage etiquette. Their earliest horseless carriages were steam driven. After a few accidents involving pedestrians unaccustomed to dodging these new-fangled vehicles, they passed a law to help the situation. Drivers of those steam driven carriages had to have a man walk in front waving a flag and blowing a horn. In the United States, drivers of horseless carriages used bells, whistles and handheld horns to warn pedestrians. These handheld devices produced some accidents since drivers were distracted. The use of handheld warning signals was replaced in 1908 when Miller Reese Hutchison patented the Klaxon horn. With its signature “ahh-oo-gah” sound it became the horn most often used in vehicles. When Ford introduced the Model T gas powered car, the Klaxon horn was a standard addition. The horn’s popularity waned in the 1930’s with the introduction of the electric horn which evolved into present day use. Miller Reese Hutchison, years later, became the chief engineer for Thomas Edison’s laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey. One of his notable inventions was a portable electric hearing aid, which ironically replaced holding a wooden horn in the ear to hear. Finding an acceptable non-offensive way of using the car horn is subjective. I know that sometimes driving during the summer can be frustrating and anger-inducing in our county. But instead of ‘leaning on your horn” for an extended period, I suggest one or two quick beeps. It gets the message across without increasing your blood pressure and gently nudges the driver in front of you who is trying to figure out at what point do you have to adhere to a posted speed limit on our roads. If you see a sign a hundred yards ahead that says “Speed Limit 35” does that go into effect when you see the sign or the moment you drive past it? For that matter, why do certain areas of Route 17 in our county drop to 55 MPH for no noticeable reason? One of my favorite things to do during the summer months, is to go for a long drive on our backroads. The sweeping vistas, farmlands and roadside rivers remind me of how lucky we are to live here. I purposely drive at the speed limit or just below to enjoy the scenery. But often, a driver zooms behind me and feels the need to tailgate me often accompanied with the irritating blast of his horn. When appropriate, I gesture by sticking my arm out and allow them to pass. My kindness often causes the passing driver to show me a gesture that only requires one finger and it’s rarely a thumbs up. So, enjoy our roads, be hospitable to our summer guests and when you must use your horn give it a well-intended roadrunner’s beep beep.

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