Environment Minister Backs RAC Foundation Campaign For Car Drivers To Chill Out

Decibel-loving drivers aren’t just risking their hearing, they are also risking their safety, according to the RAC Foundation today [28th March] backing campaigning MP Dr Tony Wright’s call for antisocial in-car audio to be run off the road.

Dr Tony Wright, MP for Cannock Chase, told the House of Commons yesterday*:  “Research carried out by the RAC Foundation found that drivers who were listening to loud music with a fast beat were twice as likely to go through a red light, and that they have twice as many accidents. Cocooned in their sound bubble, they are oblivious to other road users and to their general environment.”

RAC Foundation research has also shown that, while improvements in technology mean car engines are 50% quieter than they were ten years ago, factory-fitted car stereos have become more powerful and after-market units more affordable.

Replying to the debate, Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw said “How many people, I wonder, have been distracted by the sudden “Boom! Boom! Boom!” coming from one of those cars, wondering what on earth was happening, as the ground beneath them shook or the walls and windows of their home vibrated to the heavy thud of some violent bass beat?”

The Minister compared the volume of a top-of-the-range sound system with a jet taking off from Heathrow, and reminded motorists that anyone exposed to such high volumes of sound in their workplace would have to wear ear defenders.

The RAC Foundation’s noise research shows:-

  • Noisy cars are the second most irritating neighbourhood noise in the UK (MORI poll for Noise Action Week 2006)
  • Drivers listening to music with a fast beat are twice as likely to go through a red light and have twice as many accidents.
  • A typical car stereo can produce 110 dB - anyone hearing noise levels of more than 85dB for 8 hours a day can expect to develop hearing loss.

Action available to the authorities includes:-

  • Serving an ASBO - under the Police Reform Act 2002, local police forces may serve ASBOs banning drivers from certain roads,
  • Seizing the vehicle - also under the Police Reform Act 2002, police may  stop and seize a vehicle which is causing alarm, distress or annoyance to members of the public
  • Confiscating equipment - under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, loud music from stationary vehicles may be defined as a statutory nuisance, giving Environmental Health Officers powers to serve abatement notices, impose fines or confiscate the audio equipment. 

    Edmund King, Executive Director of the RAC Foundation said:

     “Everybody deserves to enjoy peace and quiet in their own homes, yet a minority of motorists have become mobile menaces, imposing their music on unwilling neighbours.

    "We would ask motorists to be responsible when driving and not put lives at risk for the sake of blasting out the latest tunes. Although the decrease in reaction time from playing loud music translates into mere fractions of a second, on the UK’s busy roads, this reduction could mean the difference between a hit or a miss.”

    In the RAC Foundation’s report, Motoring Towards 2050, public concern about noise was identified as a key environmental factor in future road transport policy. The report identifies quality of life issues, such as increased stress and sleep disturbance, and potential health issues, caused by transport noise. Motoring Towards 2050 recommends the adoption of measurable targets for noise abatement from transport and the development of a Noise Strategy to address all noise sources in a balanced way.

    28 March 2007 Staff

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