Why do cars have horns? In Real Life, to alert other drivers of danger, or to let them know of the car's presence if they're not looking. However, in fiction, the horn's main purpose is to announce that traffic has stopped - a traffic jam in fiction will inevitably resound with the noise of dozens of car horns, seemingly being honked for no reason other than the frustration of the drivers.
Related to Percussive Therapy. A driver enveloped in traffic that's crawling along or at a standstill can't get out of there, nor change lanes, nor reverse course, or anything really. His sole recourse is to lay on the horn, as if this signal of impatience will somehow unsnarl the obstacle. On the one hand, drivers can vent their anger and frustration this way, however, it can significantly increase the level of stress in other road users and onlookers. Also, the image of cars crawling silently along isn't very interesting for the audience so adding the honking creates auditory involvement and makes for a less bland scene.
Usually, there is a law against this practice in Real Life and it is illegal for drivers to sound their horn in stationary traffic.
Big Honking Examples:
- In AKIRA, two tanks and a detachment of soldiers are blocking a road during Tetsuo's rampage. At first, the motorists stuck behind the roadblock are annoyed, honking their horns and shouting, until they see a helicopter crash in the intersection ahead.
- An episode of the 90's Tamagotchi anime series Anime de Hakken!! Tamagotchi casts Mametchi in the role of a traffic cop who unwittingly interrupts the drivers he's supposed to directing twice - once during a lunch break, and once when he somehow decides it's a good idea to go to sleep for the night while he's still at the intersection - with both holdups resulting in a bunch of audible honks from the none-too-pleased Tamagotchis.
- Happy Heroes: Season 10 episode 3 begins with a traffic jam, complete with frustrated drivers honking their horns, being interrupted by one of Big M.'s monsters flipping all the vehicles into the air, followed by Smart S. saving a little girl from being smashed by one of said vehicles.
- A scene in The Incredibles shows Bob stuck in honking traffic on the way home from work.
- In Inside Out, there is a scene of people honking their horns in traffic. Anger then comments that he likes people who do this.
- Several drivers impatiently honk their horns at the stalled traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge in Dreamworks' Monsters vs. Aliens. Although the bottleneck is caused by a fifty foot tall young woman engaged in combat with a colossal alien robot, leadfoot drivers nevertheless honk at them for the delay.
- Brassed Off has a brief moment when there is a traffic jam heading into London, complete with car horns (loud enough to be heard above the background brass band), while the band player's bus sails past in the bus lane.
- The 1980's Made-for-TV Movie The Great American Traffic Jam (also known as Gridlock) follows a day in the life a group of Los Angeles citizens trapped in a massive traffic jam (massive enough that port-a-potties need to be flown in by the National Guard, to "Ride of the Valkyries"). As expected, every scene of the movie that happens on the highway has a constant background noise of people honking their car horns.
- Horse Feathers has Pinky (Harpo) taking a lunch break with his horse in the middle of a city street. A crescendo of car horns begins around him, a policeman comes up to write him a ticket, and Hilarity Ensues.
- The musical La La Land opens with everyone stuck in LA traffic and honking their horns. It's done subtly, since there's an upbeat Crowd Song to follow. However, after the Crowd Song is over, everyone gets into their cars and goes right back to honking at each other.
- Cartoon cars are inching along the approach road to the basketball arena in Space Jam, honking horns and bumping each other to make progress.
- In Bruce Almighty, Bruce seems to get stuck in a loud, honking traffic jam during his commute almost every day.
- Played for Drama in The Day Britain Stopped: the big honking traffic jam envelops the whole nation and is the cause of many disasters that ruin people's lives, and even get them killed, and on Christmas, too.
- Lampshaded in the Able Team novel "Cairo Countdown", when a Cairo taxi driver notes how everyone's honking at a bus that's broken down, even though there's nothing the bus driver can do about the situation.
- In the late 1980s novelty song "Car Phone" (a parody of C. W. McCall's "Convoy"), a yuppie executive sings about his car phone; traffic-jam horns honking can be heard periodically throughout.
- The "Weird Al" Yankovic song "Traffic Jam" starts with a bunch of cars blowing their horns. The song itself is about the singer being caught in a traffic jam.
- "Expressway to Your Heart" by The Soul Survivors (1967) opens with honking horns, and brings them back for the chorus to go with the line "At five o'clock it's much too crowded".
- Traffic jams in Sim Copter will feature this with traffic jams. Part of this is so the player will know how close they are to the traffic jam if they are not looking at the ground.
- The Johnny Bravo episode "The Day the Earth Didn't Move Around Too Much." has two lanes of traffic at a standstill, honking fervently. Then one driver decides that mindless honking solves nothing, and the standstill would make a fine opportunity for a nap. All other drivers concur until the entire motorcade is dozing quietly. Johnny comes along, sees a mass of cars not moving, nor honking, and interprets this as further proof that time has stopped for everyone but himself.
- In the The Powerpuff Girls episode, "Super Zeroes", Blossom takes on the identity of Liberty Belle, inspired by her favorite comic book superhero, Freedom Gal. When she tries to rush to Townsville to save it from a giant monster in the Freedom Mobile, she gets caught in a large traffic jam where every driver is honking their horn. This makes her arrive too late to stop the monster, and The Mayor reprimands her for showing up late.
- The Simpsons:
- In "Itchy and Scratchy Land", Homer finds himself right in the middle of a traffic jam on his way to the titular amusement park. He tells his family, "I've got an ace up my sleeve"; the "ace" turns out to be... sounding the horn repeatedly.
- In "Two Bad Neighbors", Homer sounds his horn at former president George Bush (senior) when the latter is taking too long to order something from the drive-thru at Krusty Burger; Bush has his Secret Service agent disable Homer's horn.
- Stymied traffic seen by the Martian probe in What on Earth! begin honking, which brings a "worker" (caterpillar construction machinery) on the double. The "worker" chews up the obstructive mountains, and lays down more smooth roadway in mere seconds, alleviating the backlog, which quiets the honking.
- In The Flintstones, one episode has Fred, stuck in stationary bumper-to-bumper traffic, comment that the highway is "the world's biggest parking lot".
- The Jetsons: When George is stuck in a jam, the radio broadcast talks about moving to a different highway, which is clear of traffic. As they're in flying cars, he decides to fly his car straight over—and all of the other cars in the jam follow him to that highway too, causing it to become jammed instead. However, the drivers have stopped honking.
- The Animaniacs episode "Plane Pals" uses this trope, with a shot of airplanes honking because the runway has too much traffic appearing in the midst of the safety video everyone on the plane is required to watch.