When are you allowed to honk in Spanish traffic?

by Lorraine Williamson
honk in traffic

MADRID – Being stressed is often accompanied by a sense of haste. And being in a hurry in traffic can cause you to honk at other road users more often than necessary. This can also result in a fine of up to €200.

You see an acquaintance walking; someone in front of you at the traffic light pays more attention to his mobile phone and does not see that it has been green for a long time; you drive behind someone at a speed of 15 km/h where 30 km/h is allowed; someone stops in the middle of the lane to let someone else get out or to run an errand… All situations in which you can be tempted to honk the horn for a while. However, honking is not allowed in such cases. Furthermore, it falls under exaggerated or unmotivated honking and that is prohibited. 

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The use of the horn is regulated in article 110 of the General Traffic Regulations: “Exceptionally or if provided for by any regulation of the traffic, motor vehicle traffic, and road safety legislation, acoustic signals with non-shocking sound may be used, and the unmotivated or exaggerated its use is prohibited”. 

The fines for improper use of the horn

Improper use of the horn can lead to fines of up to €200, DGT warns on Twitter. These fines are categorised in Article 110 of the General Traffic Regulations as follows: 

  • If the horn is used in a shrill or excessive manner, for non-regulated purposes or in acoustically protected areas, the fine is €80 
  • The use of a horn with a manipulated acoustic signal, or even its absence or poor condition, is subject to a fine of €200 

RACE, the Spanish equivalent of RAC or AA, summarises the cases when a motorist can be fined for unnecessary honking: 

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  • Use acoustic signals with shrill sound: €80 
  • Use of acoustic signals without legal reason: €80 
  • Failure to obey the signal prohibited to output acoustic signals (R-310): €80 euros
  • Driving a vehicle with special acoustic signals without this vehicle having a priority character, it concerns a special vehicle or special transport: €200  
  • Driving a non-priority vehicle with special acoustic signaling devices: €200 

When is honking allowed? 

But when can we use the horn? The General Traffic Service (DGT) describes the only three cases in which honking is allowed: 

  • To avoid a possible accident and especially on narrow roads with many bends 
  • Outside built-up areas, you may warn another vehicle when overtaking it. 
  • To warn other road users of your presence. If a driver is forced to drive as an emergency service. In this case the horn must be used intermittently combined with hazard lights.

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There is of course room for interpretation, because what one person sees as necessary honking to prevent an accident, another may see as excessive. The authorities on duty will have the last word on this. 

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The law restricts the use of the horn much more than the drivers adhere to. Nevertheless, having a properly working horn is mandatory. In Article 11 of the General Vehicle Regulations states the following. “All motor vehicles must be equipped with a device that emits an acoustic produces signals that emit a continuous, uniform sound of sufficient intensity”. 

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