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It's Time to Ban "Instruments of Civic Poison," Prof. Ted Rueter Writes

April 22, 2005

ted-rueter.jpgApril 22, 2005, Greencastle, Ind. - "They have menacing names like Viper and Hellfire. Their ear-splitting shrieks wake people up in the middle of the night. Their high-decibel blare causes blood pressures to skyrocket. They are the apex of selfishness. They are pointless," states Ted Rueter, assistant professor of political science at DePauw University, in today's Herald-Times of Bloomington, Indiana. "I'm speaking of car alarms -- ridiculous, infernal devices that should be banned as a public nuisance."

Dr. Rueter wonders why one in four cars today is equipped with an alarm. "Car alarms are laughably ineffective. Experts estimate that 95 percent of car alarm soundings are false. Car alarms can be set off by keyless entry systems, someone leaning on the car, a boisterous motorcycle, a car horn, a boom car -- or a falling leaf. Who takes these intrusive gizmos seriously? When a car alarm goes off, almost no one runs out and calls the police. Instead, most people wonder when that moron will shut off his car clip art.jpgstupid alarm. A survey by the Progressive Insurance Company found that less than 1 percent of respondents would notify the police if they heard a car alarm... [And] car alarms do almost nothing to discourage 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."

The professor says the devices are more than a nuisance, they are a threat to public health. "The most obnoxious car alarms blast away at an excruciating 125 decibels -- five deciibels louder than a jet engine and only five decibels below the threshold of pain. Nerve-shattering noise boosts stress, erodes productivity and causes chronic fatigue." Rueter cites research that suggests high-level noise pollution may also be harmful to unborn children.

"The public is fed up with these instruments of civic poison," he asserts. "Several cities have experimented with ordinances fining owners of blaring alarms. Enforcement, however, is spotty. What's more, a car alarm that shuts off within 45 seconds has done its damage. The philosopher Euripides observed that 'the good and the wise lead quiet lives.' America needs to quiet down. The first step is to ban car alarms."

Access the op-ed in its entirety at College News.org. Read about Ted Rueter's other recent opinion columns herehere, here and here.

Source: Bloomington (Ind.) Herald-Times

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