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The Buzz

Researchers have a quacky idea: Replace car horns with duck sounds

Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock

The sounds of nature have a way to grab someone's attention, and that's further confirmed by the results from a study looking into alternatives for the modern day car horn, where duck sounds emerged as the winner.

While the original "ah-oo-gah" has been replaced by more forceful sounds that are good for getting someone's attention, they also can startle a driver to the point that they themselves have an accident, defeating the purpose of a horn.


Because we all could use more soothing sounds in our daily life, researchers at Soongsil University in Seoul, South Korea tested car horn alternatives on 100 volunteers. 

The goal was to find a less distressing sound that was just as effective in getting someone's attention as today's car horns.

The participants were asked to rate the sounds on a number of criteria, including stress and loudness, to create a "mean option score" to rank the sounds from bad to excellent.

When the results were tallied up, researchers found that those resembling a quacking sound consistenly performed the best.

Does that mean impatient drivers stuck in traffic jams of the future will have the roadways sounding more like a team of ducks on the water?

Not necessarily. Especially if you ask Mike Stigwood, a consultant with noise-pollution specialist MAS Environmental. He says it's all a bunch of quackery. 

"Absolutely not," he said in regard to duck sounds being an effective horn. "You need a noise that triggers the senses in an alarming way and immediately draws your attention – which is what sirens and car horns currently do."

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