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Why Do Latin Americans Honk So Much in Traffic?

Published October 1, 2022 in Health & Safety - 0 Comments

I remember when I first arrived to Latin America for the very first time.

I was in a city known as Villahermosa for my first night and day down here almost a decade ago and just noticing so many things different with life down here than back home.

One of them was how loud everybody seemed in this city.

For one, you had these fat dudes yelling something that I didn't understand at the time.

Looking back at it, they were liking announcing the routes their combi vans were going down for anyone who wanted who needed to get somewhere.

Outside of that, you also just had a shit ton of honking.

It didn't bother me but it did make me wonder: "why do they honk so much?"

In some cases, it didn't make too much sense to me in the moment.

Like when we got into some van headed towards Chiapas and our driver would honk as he is about to pass a stop sign for example.

Of course, I learned pretty quickly during that trip and through my later years that dudes like that seem to be just announcing to anyone driving that he isn't stopping his vehicle for the stop sign.

When I lived in Barranquilla of Colombia, that practice was WAY more common for taxi drivers to speed the fuck up past the stop sign and just let out a LOUD honk to basically scream "FUCK YOU I AIN'T STOPPING."

More recently while in Mexico City, I've been taking a lot of taxis and ubers recently to visit more obscure parts of the city.

During these rides, it's always common for the driver to be a little more honk friendly than how people are back home.

Be it a driver I had taking me to Bosque de Tlahuac where the dude was cussing out other drivers and honking his way through as he was in a hurry to get me to my destination given he had to be somewhere unexpectedly.

You can read more about that here.

In another case, I had a driver take me around Milpa Alta.

He was very friendly but would sometimes honk his vehicle when trying to cut in front of someone else for example.

Not too crazy of a driver in his case.

Or, when I took an Uber to my new apartment in Iztapalapa, you have the classic case of my driver honking at the driver in front of him to keep moving even though he can't because the light is red and the road is full of vehicles equally stuck.

Even though I'm not sure how it makes sense to honk in that situation because it isn't going to physically make the light turn green and it's not the fault of anybody in front of him, he still felt the need to honk.

Personally, it doesn't bother me how much honking people do but it is a thing that a lot of expats notice down here.

It just seems that people generally are more liberal with their honking than back home.

Of course, like with anything, it probably depends on what part of Latin America you are in.

Though, if I'm being honest, I'm not sure if that is entirely true.

I always say that in most of my articles to emphasize that the region is very different based on where you are but I can't remember a single country I've been to where the people were not more liberal with their honking than in the cities back home.

And I emphasize cities because I know my time in small town Iowa doesn't make for a fair comparison.

More of my time in Columbus, Ohio for example.

Still, some parts of Latin America do seem worse on this issue than others.

For obvious reasons, some of the biggest cities with the worse traffic are clearly going to have this issue more commonly.

But, putting that variable of traffic aside, the culture does matter too also in my opinion.

For example, there's something about the drivers in a place like Barranquilla that just make them a shit ton more aggressive with their driving.

In contrast, if I had to guess a place that isn't overly excessive with honking, maybe it'd be Uruguay?

I have no idea because I don't remember very well how liberal Uruguayans seemed with honking.

If I don't remember it being an issue though in Uruguay but can remember it being something to notice in places like Barranquilla or Bogota, then maybe Uruguay isn't so bad?

Who knows.

Either way, it is a question to ponder: why does it seem that Latin Americans honk so much more?

I think there's a few things to mention that come to mind.

Why Do Latin Americans Honk More?

So, as I said, not everyone is the same in Latin America.

Some people don't honk at all obviously.

Others honk like they are trying to make a song out of it.

And every country is different.

So, moving past that, what are some factors to consider that might explain this?

First, it should be said that sometimes the honking truly makes sense.

For example, if you are on a chicken bus in Guatemala that has to turn on a VERY narrow mountain road but can't see around the curve, it'd make sense for him to honk before turning slowly around the curve.

It is a risky job and people have died in accidents like you see here in Colombia. 

For all you know, there might be some borracho type character speeding the fuck up around the curve!

Given I'm from Iowa with no mountains basically, this is obviously a factor in life that was new to me when I began living and traveling around here.

Something to mention briefly anyhow.

Second, as I said before, some drivers down here really do use it as a way of saying "FUCK YOU, I'M MOVING FORWARD!"

That's when they are trying to speed past a red light or stop sign and want any other drivers to be aware of their presence when speeding past.

Hopefully it does notify them and accidents can be avoided.

Of course, all it takes is two dudes like that to behave the same way at the same time for an accident to occur.

And I have seen that occasionally where two dudes try to honk their way through a stop sign and almost hit each other.

It's a game of chicken then.

Who has the balls to just SPEED right through and not stop?

The one who stops is then embarrassed because he feels his girlfriend or wife sitting next to him has seen him turned into a bitch by the other driver.

It was HIM that stopped. Not the other guy!

....Will she cheat on him now with the other superior driver?

You bet so!

Unless the defeated driver begins screaming out of his window in typical Quilla fashion "HIJO DE SU PUTA MADRE!!!!!!"

The embarrassment can be redeemed only if the defeated driver begins cussing him out in the most trashy way possible.

Third, in a similar situation, it might be that the driver is trying to cut in front of another driver.

Merge into another lane.

Either way, he's just letting the other dude know that he's cutting in.

Fourth, it should be said that Americans take honking more offensively than Latin Americans.

The cultural difference has to be recognized here.

Because of that, Latin Americans are not as hesitant to honk and Americans would be.

But there's another reason to explain the hesitancy also.

Fifth, Americans have way more guns and are more likely to shoot you during a road rage incident than back home.

That isn't to say that nobody in Latin America has a gun. Plenty do (although quite often illegally depending on the person).

And you do have some people who are fearful of someone pulling out a gun down here.

For example, I remember years ago being outside of a club in Polanco where I was drunk and started talking shit to some driver who was mad at me for not looking both ways when crossing the street (or whatever his issue was).

A Mexican dude I knew warned me to be careful with that because "he could've had a gun."

Now, to be fair, Mexico is a more violent country than say Bolivia, Uruguay or Nicaragua.

Perhaps the concern for guns is more specific to countries in Latin America that have more violence like Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, etc.

There'd probably be more concern. Sure.

Still, even in Mexico, you have less guns per person on average than in the US.

While I'm sure at least one person has died from a gun in a road rage incident in Mexico, you just don't hear about it as much and so I'm assuming it's not as common.

You do have this incident here that was in Puerto Rico (though to what degree that Puerto Rico is a territory of the US matters here is up for question regarding guns).

Regardless of that though, even if your honking pisses someone off, you probably are not as worried that the other dude will shoot you.

Now, having said that, I have seen road rage in other ways.

Be it the driver who smashes his vehicle into another driver's vehicle while trying to run him off the road.

To a drunk homeless person standing in front of a taxi and screaming at the taxi driver while throwing shit.

Or, as I wrote here, one case where a motorcycle dude throws a rock at another dude's window.

Still, in any of the three situations above, it isn't really as much of a risk to your life as someone pulling a gun on you.

And, outside of the motorcycle dude, you can at least catch the motherfucker who tried harming your vehicle.

Above all, the simple fact that your average Latin American doesn't have to worry as much about bullets probably contributes to the fact that they are less hesitant to honk at someone.

Sixth, you have political issues and soccer. 

This isn't so unique though to just Latin America.

It could be argued that maybe it happens more down here but I'm not entirely sure because I haven't personally seen any large political protests happening in the US.

But, while in Latin America, I have stumbled across the occasional protest from time to time.

And so the point is that some of the honking you hear just might be associated with protesters honking their vehicles.

Or maybe they are honking during a day of political or festival importance.

Like the independence day, New Years, whatever.

On top of that, honking during a soccer game could happen too sometimes.

Stuff that I don't think is overly unique to Latin America like you saw with the truck protesters in Canada for example.

Something to mention though to explain at least part of the honking you hear down here.

Seventh, you have the topic of police.

To keep it simple, I think you'd have cops in the US that would be more on top of giving you a fine or stopping your vehicle if you were honking too much.

While I'm sure there might be some law somewhere in some part of Latin America surrounding noise complaints and honking, I would be surprised to ever see it enforced.

No fucking way would I ever be in a taxi where the dude is honking and then gets pulled over for honking too much and/or making too much noise.

I just don't see it happening.

It's like jaywalking.

Probably there are some laws about it but you can wipe your ass with those laws.

They aren't enforced.

But, given how big this region is and how many people are out there, maybe there's some news article somewhere dated back to 2004 where some local man in a small town of Brazil got the attention of the police for honking.

....Or something like that.

Though, to be fair, I'm just speculating here as a possible explanation.

I have never tried being pulled over for honking too much in the US when I last was in a truck a decade ago but I could see you getting into trouble more easily for it up there than down here.

After doing some 5 minute research, I found several articles stating that it is actually a think in the US and the UK.

Here is one of them as you can read here with some key quotes below.

While "The Sun" might not be the best source in my opinion, I trust their stance on this issue. I doubt they have any political reason to lie about something as mundane as "does honking get you into trouble?"

"Hitting the car horn for no reason can result in fines or fines.

In New York City, you are not allowed to honk your car unless there is an emergency.  

The NYPD can impose fines of up to $350 for unnecessary use of a horn, or any other noise emitted by a car, such as a car alarm.  

Section 24-237 of the New York City code states: “No person shall operate or use or cause to operate or use any classon installed on a motor vehicle, except as a Audible signal of impending danger or related use as a motor vehicle burglar alarm. ”  

The New York City website even has an area where people can report cars for being too noisy."

And while that is just for NYC, it also claims that every state in the US has some rules about this.

On top of that, I asked my "US expert" (my sister) on what would happen if you honked a lot in the US and this is what she said here.

Of course, I'm sure plenty of countries in Latin America have official rules on it like with jaywalking like I said.

It's more about enforcement really than anything else.

Still, to what degree this discourages honking in the US versus in Latin America is another question.

Above all, the more important reasons, in my opinion only, have to do with the factor surrounding guns and also how Americans seemingly take it more offensively than Latin Americans do.

Not saying nobody in Latin America finds honking offensive.

I'm sure there's some random dude in Uruguay who does!

But that, if we were to generalize, it seems Latin Americans don't take honking up the ass as much as people in the US do.

And that they don't have as many guns on average to kill you over it. Just rocks to throw at your car. 

That's all.

Anyway, if you got anything to add, drop a comment below.

And follow my Twitter here.

Thanks for reading.

Best regards,


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