July 1, 2002
Noise Free America
For immediate release
Madison: The nation’s car alarm industry has won this month’s Noisy Dozen award from Noise Free America for producing a pointless public nuisance that does nothing to deter car theft.
Car alarms have menacing names like Viper and Hellfire. Their ear-splitting shrieks wake people up in the middle of the night. Their high-decibel blares cause blood pressures to skyrocket. They are the apex of selfishness.
These thunderous gadgets are everywhere. Stand in most parking lots and you’ll hear one screeeching every few minutes. A number of states mandate insurance discounts for policyholders with car alarms. Many new cars come equipped with noisemakers as standard equipment. Currently, one in four cars has an alarm.
Ted Rueter, Noise Free America’s director, notes that “car alarms are laughably ineffective. Some experts estimate that 95 percent of car alarm soundings are false. Car alarms can be set off by keyless entry systems, someone leaning on a car, a boisterous motorcycle, a car horn, boom cars, or even falling leaves.”
“And who takes these intrusive gizmos seriously”? said Rueter. “When a car alarm goes off, how many people run out and call the police? Almost none. Instead, most people wonder when that moron will shut off his stupid alarm.” Indeed, a survey by the Progressive Insurance Company found that fewer than one percent of respondents would notify the police if they heard a car alarm. Manhattan Institute scholar Brian Anderson notes that car alarms don’t “deter anything other than a good night’s rest.”
Car alarms do almost nothing to deter professional thieves–who are responsible for 80 percent of the nation’s $7 billion in car thefts. At most, professionals are merely slowed down a few seconds.
Ken Hazelbaker of the Highway Loss Insurance Institute, a insurance industry think tank, says that car alarms accomplish nothing other than annoying your neighbors: “We’ve looked at the thefts of insured vehicles with and without car alarms and came away with the view that they don’t make a difference.”
But car alarms do make a difference–to the health and well-being of the people subjected to them. The most expensive car alarms blast away at an excruciating 125 decibels–50 times louder than the point at which the body reacts to sound. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that “exposure to excessive noise during pregnancy may be associated with prematurity and intrauterine growth retardation.” Les Blomberg, director of the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse, states that “87 percent of America’s city dwellers are exposed to noise so loud that it has the potential to degrade hearing loss over time.”
There are superior alternatives to car alarms. The Club actually prevents thieves from stealing cars–and does so soundlessly. Also, stolen cars equipped with Lojack transmit a radio signal to the police, resulting in a recovery rate of 95 percent.
Noise Free America is a national citizens group opposed to noise pollution. Its web site is www.noisefree.org. Past “winners” of the Noisy Dozen award include Circuit City and Youngstown, Ohio.