LANSING — House Bill 5504, introduced today by state Rep. Robert Wittenberg (D-Huntington Woods), heralds a change to an archaic 1949 law encouraging drivers to toot a horn or give another audible sign when they overtake another vehicle on a road or highway. These days, that law is routinely ignored in favor of visual signs such as turn signals, while honking has become a sign of alarm or irritation, which is why Wittenberg said the law should be taken off the books.

“Our roads would erupt in chaos if everyone decided to comply with this outdated law from 1949,” Rep. Wittenberg said. “Not only would it be loud and disruptive to people living near roads and highways, it would inevitably lead to incidents of road rage as drivers misinterpreted all the honking as sounds of impatience rather than signals of lane changes. This is the perfect example of a law that has outlived its usefulness, and it’s time for it to go.”

The 1949 law doesn’t specify honking as an audible signal, though Michigan law does require motor vehicles to have a working horn. Drivers also have the option of yelling, blowing an actual trumpet or making another sound when overtaking another vehicle. The state of Wisconsin got rid of a similar law in 2014.

Wittenberg’s bill has the backing of the Michigan State Police, who he consulted in drafting the legislation.

“There’s no reason to make our driving laws more complicated than they need to be,” Rep. Wittenberg said. “Rather than let this old law stick around, we’d be better off reminding people to use their turn signals and to maintain a safe following distance between their vehicle and the one ahead of them. I hope we can get this bill passed quickly and remove the outdated law from the books.”