Monday, January 24, 2011

Back-up Beepers and Noise Pollution

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Vehicle Motion Alarms: Necessity, Noise Pollution, or Both? (4 page pdf, Environ Health Perspect 119, Jan. 1, 2011)

Today’s article looks at the latest health threat from beepers which were supposed to provide a safety warning to those who may be struck by a truck backing up. Poor design and even poorer results and the significant addition they make to nocturnal urban noise pollution in particular are noted. The demand for the vehicle warning sounds is likely to increase with the greater numbers of silent electric or hybrid vehicles coming soon. Statistics show how dangerous current designs are to pedestrian safety. On a broader level and not mentioned is the need to design cities for pedestrians and not exclusively for vehicles.

Key Quotes:

“If annoyance level is any indication, backup beepers may be one of the most harmful noises.”

“the unpredictability and lack of control over when the sounds are heard are characteristics that normally raise noise’s impact on public health”

“backup beepers topped another list, with 20 state departments of transportation identifying them as a problem in generating nighttime construction noise”

“Their single tones, with a typical volume of 97–112 decibels (dB) at the source, are loud enough to damage hearing”

“Problems arise when multiple beepers are present at a site or the alarm creates an annoyance beyond the danger zone.”

“An investigation by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that an original equipment manufacturer backup alarm failed to prevent two-thirds of backover accidents analyzed”

“HEVs [Hybrid Electric Vehicles]were twice as likely as nonhybrid gasoline-powered vehicles to collide with pedestrians”

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