The Secret Car Horn Language Of Port-Au-Prince Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is known for its terrible traffic, partly caused by lack of reliable street lights. So drivers there have come up with their own complicated language.
NPR logo

The Secret Car Horn Language Of Port-Au-Prince

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/537174782/537174783" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
The Secret Car Horn Language Of Port-Au-Prince

The Secret Car Horn Language Of Port-Au-Prince

The Secret Car Horn Language Of Port-Au-Prince

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/537174782/537174783" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is known for its terrible traffic, partly caused by lack of reliable street lights. So drivers there have come up with their own complicated language.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Next, we have your morning traffic report about the traffic in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, which has apocalyptic traffic. Part of the problem is no reliable electricity for traffic lights. So drivers are using a kind of secret car-horn language. Rebecca Hersher reports.

REBECCA HERSHER, BYLINE: We're stuck.

ANDRE PAULTRE: We're stuck.

(SOUNDBITE OF HORN HONKING)

HERSHER: Professional driver Andre Paultre is behind the wheel. That honk means, hey, move into that opening between the truck and the motorcycle.

(SOUNDBITE OF HORN HONKING)

HERSHER: This is not downtown-at-rush-hour-when-there's-also-a-baseball-game traffic. Port-au-Prince gridlock feels lawless. So if you're going to drive, you need to know what the different horns mean.

PAULTRE: If I just want to say hello...

(SOUNDBITE OF HORN HONKING)

HERSHER: That's hello.

PAULTRE: That's hello.

HERSHER: Or if you want to say, my truck's brakes don't work that well and I'm coming down the hill anyway...

(SOUNDBITE OF HORN HONKING)

HERSHER: Or thanks.

(SOUNDBITE OF HORN HONKING)

HERSHER: Or for oblivious people, stop chatting in the middle of the street.

PAULTRE: If - in Haiti, the drivers - they don't follow the rules. So I will stop by like...

(SOUNDBITE OF HORN HONKING)

PAULTRE: One. If you don't pay attention, you're still talking, then I'll be like...

(SOUNDBITE OF HORN HONKING)

PAULTRE: Two. And now after two warnings like this, I will go, and I will hold it 40 seconds, 60 seconds. I don't mind.

HERSHER: It can all get pretty serious pretty quickly. A lot of people are injured or killed in car crashes. Ambulances can't get through. And Port-au-Prince has a carjacking problem. But the horns do help with the gridlock. People use them so much and replace their vehicles so seldom that they use up their horns. Yeah, I didn't even know that was possible. Andre Paultre has two sets of horns.

PAULTRE: Like one for nasty people...

(SOUNDBITE OF HORN HONKING)

PAULTRE: ...And a very gentle one. One is low, and one is high. So currently, my high-tone is dead. I guess maybe I've been using it too much.

(SOUNDBITE OF HORN HONKING)

HERSHER: For NPR News, I'm Rebecca Hersher.

(SOUNDBITE OF QUANTIC'S "THE 5TH EXOTIC")

INSKEEP: Her story was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

(SOUNDBITE OF QUANTIC'S "THE 5TH EXOTIC")

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.