Kathleen Horan, Reporter, WNYC News
Kathleen Horan is a staff reporter for New York Public Radio, covering the neighborhood beat. She also reports 'Reset', an ongoing series documenting police-community relations in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
Taxi Drivers have been put on notice by the city that if they sound their horn it will cost them.
The steep $350 Vehicle and Traffic Law fine, which applies to all drivers, has been the law for some time, but this week the Taxi and Limousine Commission began reminding cabbies of it with a text message on their information monitors:
"Drivers-remember that honking is against the law except when warning of imminent danger! Be a good neighbor and save yourself a $350 summons-honk only in an emergency!"
Most taxi drivers said they’re aware of the rule, but after a long shift behind the wheel, occasionally a little toot of the horn is required to wake other motorists up.
Mohammed Sarkar, a cab driver for 11 years, said, "Sometimes the people is crazy they are double parking, triple parking."
He added that when a customer needs to get to the office or the hospital in an emergency, then he’ll turn to the horn, but it’s rare.
Harlem resident Nick Holder said when it comes to being annoyed by honking, it depends whether he’s in a taxi or on the street.
"When they’re honking on my behalf, I’m ok," he said. "When they’re honking on someone else’s behalf, I don’t like it."
Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky said the messages to cabbies are more an FYI than a promise of stepped up enforcement.
"A regulator doesn’t always have to follow licensees with a summons book in their hands," Yassky said. "Sometimes it’s better to communicate directly and effectively that a certain behavior has a negative effect and they should think about how to remedy a situation."
The city is encouraging passengers who witness gratuitous honking to report by their driver to call 3-1-1 to alert the TLC of the violation. But, the TLC also has its own enforcement unit that can issue summonses separately from the NYPD. In addition to the fine that all motorists face, Cabbies also risk a $200-$300 fine if they’re found guilty.
Passenger complaints about honking have actually decreased over the past year, but Soho resident Georgette Sloan supports expensive summonses for chronic honkers. "It doesn’t help, nobody ever moves because of it, they only do it because they’re irritated and they’re hot tempered, that’s all."