November 1, 2012

Noise Free America
For immediate release

Ted Rueter
[email protected]

Chapel Hill: The American automobile industry has won this month’s Noisy Dozen award from Noise Free America for featuring noise-making remote keyless entry systems as standard equipment on most new models. Approximately two-thirds of vehicles manufactured for sale in the United States use intrusive horn sounds as part of remote keyless entry technology.

Remote keyless entry horn honking creates completely unnecessary noise, which disturbs babies, children, students, retirees, and nighttime workers. Many pedestrians in parking lots are regularly jolted by this constant, aggressive noise. Many car owners seem to be saying, ‘Look at me! Look at how much noise my car horn makes! I’m so cool!”

Eighty percent of United States driver manuals limit horn use to specific situations, and forty percent permit horn honking only to avert an emergency. In Tennessee, where Nissan is headquartered, the driver manual states unequivocally: “Only use your horn as a warning to others.” Using a horn sound to signify a non-emergency event adds noise to the environment and creates a safety hazard.

The jarring noise from the remote keyless entry system is pointless. Remote keyless entry status can be confirmed through flashing lights, a quiet electronic chirp, or the simple sound of locks engaging. Also, car alarms bestow only psychological benefit, since engine immobilizers prevent car theft, and most new cars feature sophisticated tracking technology.

Nissan even has a television commercial, entitled “Enough,” for its new “easy-fill tire alert” technology, which causes the horn to honk when tires need more air. Amazingly, the Nissan Altima ad shows the car owner being annoyed and embarrassed at repeated horn honking. Although the ad is theatrical and does not show the motorist receiving an alert on his dashboard, it captures the intrusive nature of remote keyless entry horn noise.

Dr. Cullen Ruff, an Associate Professor at the Virginia Commonwealth School of Medicine in Fairfax, Virginia, states that “the honking car lock is a pointless disturber of the peace, even more frequent and annoying than car alarms. In addition to rarely-enforced restrictions on horn honking, many hospital, church and school zones used to request quiet in their vicinity–and people generally obliged respectfully.”

“Then came the remote car lock,” states Dr. Ruff. “At first, lights flashed to give owners confidence that their cars were locked. Some vehicles emitted a light chirping or clicking sound. But, inexplicably, some thoughtless engineer must have decided that the rest of the earth needed to hear a loud noise every time a car was locked. Day or night, urban or rural, we are now bombarded with sudden, jarring honking at excessive decibels, for absolutely no benefit to anyone. It’s time to say ‘enough.’”

Dr. Ruff observes that “the cumulative health effects of intrusive noise on blood-pressure, sleep disruption, and anxiety are real. Numerous studies have demonstrated that excessive noise is a substantial health hazard.”

“With all of the difficult decisions our Congress must make,” states Dr. Ruff, “here’s a no-brainer for the folks on Capitol Hill, with no cost to US taxpayers: ban the sale of any new car in the United States that has a honking remote lock mechanism or an audible car alarm. No one loses anything useful, we all benefit, and everyone’s day is made just a little bit more peaceful.”

Jeanine Botta, a New York City resident, has organized a grassroots campaign to address remote keyless entry systems that use horn sounds. She began to notice remote keyless entry horn honking two years ago, when she lived in a Brooklyn brownstone apartment facing the street: “The street was very quiet during the six years that I lived there, although many people parked their car. However, during the last two years, remote keyless entry horn use became more prevalent, and horns could be heard frequently, day and night. People wouldn’t think twice about remote keyless entry horn use in the middle of the night. It seems that some people use the technology from inside their homes, just to assure themselves that their cars had not been stolen.”

Botta notes that “the technology has had two unintended effects. First, it is intrusive. It enters people’s homes and affects their sleep and quality of life, it startles pedestrians, and it creates danger by confusing cyclists and other drivers. Secondly, it seems to create a compulsion in users to hear the horn as a form of assurance.”

According to Botta, “Subaru and Toyota have switched their audible confirmation sound from honking to a less intrusive electronic chirp. But the majority of cars manufactured for sale in the United States continue to use horn honking as security confirmation, despite state motor vehicle safety regulations and local noise ordinances that limit horn use to emergencies. Regulatory agencies completely ignore the noise, health effects, and safety risks of this technology. American automobile companies should assume greater responsibility for the environment and end this problem.”

Ted Rueter, Noise Free America’s director, commented that “remote keyless entry systems are ridiculous. What is so hard about locking your car with a lock? What is so hard about using a silent remote door locking device? What is so hard about using a tire gauge to check the air pressure on your tires? These ‘innovations’ dreamed up by corporate engineers are making the world a much noisier and less pleasant place to live. The European Union mandates the use of optical signals to confirm that a door has been locked; the US government should do the same. It is time to end the madness of unnecessary noise.”

Noise Free America is a national 501c3 organization opposed to noise pollution. Past “winners” of the Noisy Dozen award include the California Department of Industrial Relations, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.