Style Weekly (Richmond, Virginia)

April 24, 2002

Randy Throckmorton can’t sleep night at night. He can’t sleep in the day.

Throckmorton, who owns a limousine business, blames “boom cars,” loud mufflers, barking dogs and rude people. The noise is epidemic, he says.

According to Throckmorton, and supporters like 8th District City Councilwoman Reva Trammell, many Richmonders could be at risk of going deaf or even, he says, insane.

Excessive noise is more than a nuisance, Throckmorton contends, especially in his South Side neighborhood — it is a public-health issue. Sustained noise, he says, like that produced by car stereos and traffic, has been linked to high blood pressure, peptic ulcers, heart attacks, strokes, suicides, impaired learning and aggression.

Throckmorton is president of the Richmond chapter of Noise Free America, a California-based, political-action group that focuses on noise pollution. Last week the group held a public forum at Lucille Brown Middle School to discuss irritating noise levels and their impact on residents in Richmond and the surrounding counties. An audiologist from the Virginia Commonwealth University’s Medical College of Virginia Hospitals, a representative of the Virginia State Police, city officials and residents discussed possible solutions.

Throckmorton’s group hopes to persuade police to aggressively enforce noise violations. Effective since January, the penalty for breaking the city’s noise ordinance can result in a Class 2 misdemeanor that carries up to 12 months in jail or fines up to 2,500 dollars.

In addition to stricter enforcement, Throckmorton says Noise Free America will lobby City Council to adopt “stronger language” in the city code that allows cars to be towed when a person violates the law. Already cities such as Rochester Chicago tow cars for noise infractions.

The self-service car washes that pepper Midlothian Turnpike and Jefferson Davis Parkway are among the prime offenders, he says; often patrons have contests to see who has the loudest stereo. “Even with signs posted to respect the neighbors you’ve got a rebel, someone who rumbles through the neighborhood,” he says.

Throckmorton says for the last seven years he’s called police anywhere from one to five times a day to complain about noise near his home. It sounds like dinosaurs roaming, he says. “It’s kind of like ‘Jurassic Park.’ After seven and a half years not getting a good night’s sleep,” he adds, “you can understand why I’m not in a good mood.”