The horn is one of the earliest automobile safety features in history, but it might also be one of the most abused. Honking can help produce a sound loud enough to alert other drivers to potential dangers. However, it can create major problems if not used as intended.
A honk can protect you from danger if you suspect another driver failed to check their blind spot when changing lanes, for example. You can also use the horn if your tires are sliding on ice or your brakes aren't working properly, which may allow other people on the roadway to evade an accident.
On the other hand, drivers may be tempted to honk at slow drivers. Horn rules may vary state-to-state, but according to Washington law, you may only honk "when reasonably necessary to insure safe operation," which does not include irritation. It may be a way to express frustration, although honking probably won't motivate the other driver to speed up.
In fact, honking in any situation other than an emergency could even create an unsafe situation. Another driver may perceive your honk as a sign of aggression and become frightened, confused or angry. This could cause a road-rage incident, which sometimes leads to risky driving and even intentional collisions.
However, you should not feel afraid to honk in an emergency situation. Although a honk may offend another driver, it is far better to hurt their feelings than allow an accident to occur. The horn is a safety feature that has prevented crashes through the ages and, when used properly, can help you stay safe on the road.