Reclaiming natural and residential soundscapes from horn-based vehicle alerts

Missouri Botanical Garden

September 10, 2015 | It's time to throw in the towel. I haven't decided to give up on this effort - but I am SO ready to take this in another direction.

Except for receiving a few very helpful responses early on, sending letters to automakers has not succeeded in reducing the burden of non-emergency horn sounds. Our letters have clearly failed if almost every automaker has introduced new horn honking technology during the last two years, including the ability to honk the horn from one's smartphone or wristwatch. Additionally, two automakers have transitioned the low-decibel interior dashboard warning chime to multiple horn blasts that bother cars' owners as much as their neighbors.

I can't dismiss the fact that Honda, Hyundai, and Nissan transitioned to the electronic tone during the same time period. But since each of them is starting to adopt "honk from your smartphone" and "honk from your wristwatch" technology, I'm guessing the switch was more likely due to the realization that an electronic tone is the de facto standard rather than out of concern about environmental noise or potential hazards caused by incongruent horn honking around moving cars and bicycles.

Within the next week or two I'll update all of the auto company contact information to include online portals where one can submit comments and complaints. If you submit online, or if you want to take a shot at sending a letter by regular mail, please be very clear, very early in your communication, that you are writing about a safety concern. Early responses that we received from automakers indicated some degree of admission of concern for adding to noise pollution (Ford) OR letters were answered by a senior safety executive (GM).

But the rest of those who responded to us considered our communication to reflect minor customer service level complaints. A recent online communication from Ford apologized for any "frustration and inconvenience."

People who have crashed into a wall, dropped a box of china, or had to stop while cycling to recover from completely losing one's breath after an incongruent roadside horn blast experience something far worse than frustration or inconvenience. And those who have had an hour or two shaved from their sleep time, or had to move to get their sleep back, are beyond frustration and inconvenience. It's also concerning when you know that your neighbor's toddler plays with the remote to hear the horn honk - I hope she doesn't remote start that car, which would be beyond frustrating and inconvenient.

Please check on the Silence the Horns project web site for action alerts, and please take a few minutes to send a letter or an e-mail in support of the growing number of activists, environmentalists, and scientists who are advocating for a return of funding and activity to the Office of Noise Abatement and Control, or an equivalent office through EPA. 1 2 3 4

Those of us who have continued to work on this since 2011 may be small in number, and we are often slow to accomplish our goals. But we are scrappy.

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