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May 26, 2004


The Long, Dark, Night of the Car Alarm

All New Yorkers have probably experienced that sleepless night of alternately calling 911 and watching Escape from New York on cable television while that goddam car alarm bleats and howls outside their apartment building.

In an article on yesterday’s anti-car alarm rally at City Hall, Transportation Alternatives’ Aaron Friedman excellently describes the noises that strike fear into the hearts of city dwellers. "There's the Eeh-Eeh-Eeh!" he said. "And the Eh! Uh! Eh! Uh! Eh! Uh! And the Wreeee! Wreeee! Wreeee!"

Transportation Alternatives, frustrated by the City’s lack of action on banning car alarms, claims that the "type of noise produced by car alarms boosts stress hormones and has been linked to cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal illnesses, psychological problems and unhealthy fetal development.” They also estimate the car alarm “noise tax” that each NYC resident pays per year: $100 - $120/year, based on the formula (V x APF) x (N x NDI) = one minute's worth of car alarm damage to the average New York City resident. (V is the value of one minute of the average New Yorker's time, APF is the Aggravation Persistence Factor, N is the alarm noise over and above average street noise, and NDI is the Noise Depreciation Index.)

I’d say that’s about right, but would also add into the equation an exponential increase based on duration and lateness of the hour. Does a car alarm actually do anything but drive the neighbors straight up a frigging wall? Probably not. I’ve seen more than one car drive by me, alarm screaming, and have never been motivated to call the police – mostly for the fear that they would bring the car back.

Although the City keeps dangling that ban in front of us, it seems unlikely to ever happen. But you do have alternatives. New York City law does not allow car alarms to continue for more than 10 minutes and if they do, the police can use any steps necessary to disconnect it, and the owner can be fined hundreds of dollars.

So next time, instead of spending the night in agony, call your local police precinct with a description of the car (preferably with license plate number), and watch justice be served. Serves that bastard right when he comes out to find a $300 ticket along with your anonymous bitchy note on the windshield.

categories: NYC
posted by Emily at 12:15 PM | #