Dear PoP – Horn Honking on Streets in Early Morning

Photo by PoPville flickr user Jess J

“Dear PoP,

I just want to preface this by saying that I fully understand that this is a first-world problem. It’s not a major thing, so I hope the readers don’t jump down my throat, but I can’t think of anyone else to really ask for advice on the situation. So here goes!

Basically, my partner and two children and I live in northern Petworth on a side street not far from GA Ave. Overall, it’s very quiet and mellow. However, there are cars (at least one, if not more) that drive by our house every single morning that LOVE to lean on their horns over and over and over. Most of the time, it’s a 6:30 am blast two or three times — something that will wake you up, but usually limited enough so that you can go back to sleep. Lately, though, a car (or two?) has been driving up and down the street repeatedly — at 3:30 am — honking on and off, over and over. Last night it happened about 4 times (i.e. 4 trips up and down the street).

Our bedroom faces the street and it’s incredibly frustrating to be woken up over and over. Even earplugs often aren’t enough to block out the sound. Calling 911 seems absurd, but other than going out and chasing the car at 4 a.m. (which also seems a little crazy) we don’t know if there’s anything that can be done ….”

First of all this a completely reasonable concern – period. What I would do is go outside and talk to the driver (very nicely) at 6:30am. Simply ask politely if they would stop. As for the 3:30am honking – I actually would call 911 especially if it is recurring.

What do you guys think?

60 Comment

  • not 911. maybe the non-emergency line.

    • How many times does it have to be said: THERE IS NO 24-HOUR NON-EMERGENCY LINE. 311 is for requesting city services. If you need the police to respond for any reason, even just a noise complaint, it’s 911.


    • Even if it is not an emergency, you call 911 if you have a police issue. They triage the calls there. 100% of the time. No matter what. They changed it a few years ago in DC.

      • me

        Yes, and triage = not responding to noise complaints. Last Thursday, when it was really nice outside, the people behind our bedroom window decided to have a party on their porch with loud music and about 20 people until they filtered inside at 3:15am. My husband and I get up for work at 5:30am, and the dispatcher chuckled when he called at 12:30am to finally complain about the noise. So, you can try to call 911, but nothing will happen.

        Can’t wait for the summer. :-/

  • A good solution for this is that horns should be required to sound as loudly INSIDE the vehicle as outside the vehicle. The effect would be inversely proportioinate to speed, so if you’re stopped or driving slowly (possibly in a residential area) the horn would be just as loud inside the car as outside. At highway speed, the effect would be reduced so that motorists wouldn’t be deterred from sounding the horn in the event of a true traffic emergency.

  • ah

    Get a paint gun and put a cap in his ass. Or a paint blob on his window. Whichever.

    This is outrageous behavior and I would call 911. Of course when the cops roll up with their lights on the guy will go silent.

    I would guess that the 3:30a guy is drunk and the 6:30a guy is just obnoxious, btw.

  • I call it the “Petworth Doorbell.” If I could change two things about DC culture, they would be the high propensities to litter and honk.

    • what about double parking on a one way street. Or just double-standing, waiting for someone to come out of their house, but blocking the entire street for everyone else until they do… that has to be worse than honking.

    • Yep. It’s a dysfunctional part of local culture. Everybody has a cell phone, but heaven forbid some of them actually use them for person-to-person communication. I had the same problem as OP — street-facing bedroom — and regularly people visit a guest at the apartment building across the street and use the horn to announce their presence, at any hour of the night (variation on the theme: when on foot, yelling up to the window rather than calling from the box or on the phone). Unfortunately, I ultimately concluded there’s no way to solve it, as confronting the person doing it is likely to get you told off and you’ll just succeed in hauling your arse out of bed and getting your dander up sufficiently that you really won’t be able to go back to sleep. Anybody sufficiently thoughtless to lay on the horn at 3AM in the first place doesn’t give a hoot about you or your kids being woken up by it. Earplugs/white noise = best bet.

      • I think it’s usally done by someone who has already called to announce their presence, and is using the horn to express their impatience that the person they’re picking up is taking too long. It’s the same eternally frustrated people who lay on the horn when stuck a traffic jam.

    • It’s not just a Petworth or DC thing, though it does seem to be confined to the DC area. I experienced it all the time out in Annandale, which was even more ridiculous because the person could have parked directly in front of the house, legally, and rung the doorbell. At least in DC there could conceivably not be a convenient place to park.

      • saf

        Nah, it happens everywhere.

        My friends used to make fun of me because my mother would NOT let us run out to meet people who were honking for us. They could come to the door, or they hadn’t arrived.

    • And commit crime. “Culture” indeed.

  • I feel your pain – I live in Cleveland Park and a garbage truck and delivery truck honk just about every morning around 5 or 6. It startles me with the windows closed, so I’m dreading the noise when I have my windows open in gorgeous weather like we have today.

    • Same thing in Mt.P w/ the garbage trucks coming up 17th street in the morning on trash pickup days. I’m always up by the time they start blasting the horn, but it grates on my nerves more and more every time.

  • Since you have a general idea of what time they come around, how about waking up a little before then and take a picture of their car/plates. That way you have something to give police if you do decide to report them.

    • Report them for what? Honking? Honking your horn is perfectly legal.

      I still think they are annoying/lazy.

      • That’s actually not entirely true. Unreasonable/disruptive noise, particularly during “quiet hours” (usually 10 PM to 7 AM, although I’m not sure if that’s true of DC), is illegal. This is why the cops come to break up loud parties.

        Whether or not the cops can catch this guy is a different story, but laying on the horn for extended amounts of time at 3 in the morning, it is safe to say, breaks the law.

    • I mean, if you’re going to get up all early and go out there, I think the obvious next step would be to *ask them to stop honking.* Right?
      Perhaps they are just thoughtless, you know? Maybe they would respond to a request to stop.

  • I live on 22nd and Mass in Dupont. Honking during rush hour is a common issue and I definitely get woken up from it. Annoying, I agree.

    • I don’t think that has much in common with the OP’s situation.

      • Really? Honking outside wakes up guy/gal sleeping inside. Seems like the same thing to me.

        “Rush hour” here could refer to anywhere from 6-9am and maybe dclove has the luxury of sleeping in. Except for the honking.

  • Invest in triple pane windows. They block out everything.

  • I would actually appreciate the 6:30am honking, since I have a tendency to hit my alarm’s off button when I’m half awake and go back to bed. Unless there’s some kind of noise I don’t end up waking again until the sun has risen!

  • haha! This letter cracks me up.
    Compared to where I grew up in the Caribbean, DC (and the rest of the US) is like living in a library…


    The 6:30am horn is probably a van coming to pick someone up for a work shift. Try and figure out who on your street is getting picked up and talk to them about the honking.

    The 3:30am horn is a drunk. Email your ANC person / councilperson and they will send out a cop car to try and catch the person on a noise violation.

    To the person who lives across from an apt. building -> try posting a sign near the building door (or talk to the manager) asking ppl to consider others and not have their pickups honk for them.

    • Best response.

      Although I doubt the cops will do anything about the 3:30am honker.

    • Best x2

      yes, try talking to the neighbor being picked up. I like it Petworth Res. So sagacious.

      it only took us PoP readers 5980 words to get to the good part. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • thats only in the mornin, u pos to be cookin breakfast fo somebody, wooooo wooooo

  • Love the ghetto doorbells in DC. In Col Heights its the idiots who scream up to a 3rd floor window in the building next to me. usually at 3am looking for “JJ”. I find it hard to believe these idiots don’t have phones. I yelled from my window to shut the fuck up or I would call the cops and that actually got it stop for a few months.

  • My wife grew up in Queens NY in an Italian/Jewish neighborhood. This happened ALL of the time…especially in warm weather, from 4am to 6am. So it may be a rough-hewn city thing, a la Goodfellas, LOL. So no, it’s not just these surly Negroes and primitive Latinos, eh?

  • LOL I don’t think anything can be done but it is rude. I live on Kenyon and there is always traffic, honking, and stereos blasting on the street but I have become a heavy sleeper…

    I only notice it when I have company that brings it to my attention.

  • Track down the car and find out where they park then put a sign on their hood. I did this and applied it with a very thick application of super glue to make sure they saw it. It worked!

  • I used to live on a road where one guy would drive down every weekday at around 5:30pm leaning on the horn. Tried to catch him but never was able to.

  • We have the other problem – the neighbor with the faulty car alarm. It is horrifically annoying and he won’t get it fixed. Every few months we’re treated to a few nights of repetitive alarms. I know a number of us have spoken to him about it, but no luck. The really sad thing is the car is at least 15 years old and falling apart. No one is trying to steal his POS.

  • It doesn’t happen around my house as much. I guess I’m lucky. Late one night/morning, probably around 3am, some stupid girl parked her car on the street, but couldn’t get her car to lock with her remote. However, the alarm honk, to tell her that she had hit the button did work. For about 20 minutes she kept hitting the damn button to try and lock her car and it never locked. It just honked. I met two other angry neighbors outside that night/morning. I told her to lock the doors with the key and get the hell out.

    The good news was that she was drunk and parked her car to get a cab. She still drove enough to park the car though. You don’t know how pissed off you should be in that situation…

  • something similar happened to me. as i was about to confront, i got informed that my neighbor, who had been unemployed for months, was car pooling to a job.

  • I would buy a pellet gun and shoot the window of this car! Try this one this gun is very accurate in the right hands. It comes with a scope and will shoot over 1200fps. They should stop this asshole!

  • Honking your horn in DC is illegal unless it is a emergency. You cab get a traffic citation for it.

  • 1. leave a sign on house’s door. you probably won’t make it down there in time to confront them
    2. cops
    3. paint ball gun

  • Welcome to city life.
    I’m not defending it but the honking to which you’re referring happens in most urban neighborhoods and its usually some idiot that doesn’t know any better.
    The sad part is that there’s nothing you can do about it except to tell the honk-ees (your neighbor) that the ride that comes to pick them up every day is disturbing your peace.
    …or you can just deal with it or you can move back to the suburbs…where you most likely came from.

  • We had the same problem in our street a couple of years back. The same car at the same time every weekday morning. Must have been a carpool or something. Anyway, I was going to go out and get very verbal with them, but my husband who is much more restrained than I, convinced me he should be the one to go over and talk to the driver. Bottom line, the driver was extremely apologetic and promised he’d stop honking the horn every morning. Go out in your jammies, rubbing the sleep out of your eyes and breathe morning breath over them while asking them to quieten down with the horn honking.

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