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driving concerns

We're taking a fall road trip through the Maritimes and we're wondering what laws we need to watch out for. I've heard that, in P.E.I, you have to honk before passing another car. Could we get charged if we don't do it? — Mike, Toronto

Honk if you'd love to pass me.

That law is on the books in Prince Edward Island — okay, not the ones by Lucy Maud Montgomery — but you probably won't get charged for breaking it, say police and the province.

"It may be in the books (but) not one that is common for sure," says Sgt. Leanne Butler, spokesperson for the RCMP in P.E.I. "I have been here 28 years and never enforced it."

Section 154 of the Island's Highway Traffic Act says the "driver of a vehicle that is overtaking another vehicle… shall sound a clearly audible signal by horn."

The fine for improper passing is between $200 and $1,000.

It's also in the province's Driver's Handbook. Page 96 says says "Remember, when passing, the law requires that you signal your intention and sound your horn."

The olden rule

Doug MacEwan, P.E.I's Registrar of Motor Vehicles, says the honking part of the rule is outdated and "has not been enforced in many years."

In the United States, New Jersey has a similar rule — but it's not enforced there either.

So, why was it a rule in the first place?

"It was probably in a time when there were very minimal traffic counts on Island roads and probably during a time when the roads were narrow," MacEwan says. "In this situation, the honking of the horn would improve safety during passing."

Unless the government changes the legislation, the rule will stay on the books. It's set to be removed from the next edition of the handbook, MacEwan says.

Still on books, still taught

Summerside, P.E.I, driving instructor Stewart Brookins teaches students to honk, gently, before passing.

"It's virtually unenforced and the majority of people don't do it," Brookins says. "But, it's basically a good enough idea to make your presence known."

You shouldn't "lay on the horn," but make a single or double tap before you start to pass — not while you're already beside the car, Brookins says.

According to the law, when you honk, the car you're about to pass should move over to the right. It's not supposed to speed up while you're passing.

"The proper passing technique isn't the way most people do it — where they get as close as possible and then pull out," Brookins says. "You should be pulling out sooner and accelerating."

Giving a signal with your horn is an especially good idea when you're on a motorcycle and might not be seen right away by the car in front of you, Brookins says.

Brookins says the law makes sense "from a safety standpoint," whether it's enforced or not.

"There's a small band of laws that police enforce," Brookins says, "And there are all kinds of things we do as drivers to stay safe on the road even though there's not a law that says so."

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