The Case for
Banning Car Alarms in New York City
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Summary of Findings
[ CAR ALARMS COST NEW YORK $400 TO $500 MILLION PER YEAR
| AUDIBLE CAR ALARMS DO NOT WORK
| THERE ARE MANY GOOD ALTERNATIVES TO CAR ALARMS | THE CITY CAN LEGALLY BAN CAR ALARMS
| RECOMMENDATIONS ]
CAR ALARMS COST NEW YORK $400 TO $500 MILLION PER
The average New York City resident pays a car alarm "Noise
Tax" of approximately $100 to $120 per year. Added up, car alarms
cost New Yorkers between $400 and $500 million per year in public health
costs, lost productivity, decreased property value, and diminished
quality of life.1
- Car alarms are a
significant and costly public health problem. 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 in a number of studies over
the last 30 years.
- Car alarms hurt New
York City's kids. Children who are exposed to the type of noise
produced by car alarms have been found to have more problems with
reading, motivation, and scholastic aptitude.
- Car alarms destroy
civility and quality of life. US Census data from 2001 show that
traffic noise and car alarms are a primary reason why families leave
AUDIBLE CAR ALARMS DO NOT WORK
Manufacturers, installers, insurers, criminologists, police, and
thieves all say that car alarms are ineffective at stopping car theft.
They simply do not work.
- A 1997 analysis of
insurance-claims data from 73 million vehicles concludes that cars
with alarms "show no overall reduction in theft losses"
compared to cars without alarms. GM, Ford, and other auto-makers
have begun to phase out factory installations of car alarms, calling
the devices mere "noisemakers."
- People don't respond
to car alarms because the vast majority are false. Authorities
estimate that 95% to 99% of all car alarms are false. The
Progressive Insurance Company found that fewer than 1% of
respondents say they would call the police upon hearing a car alarm.
professionalization of car theft has made alarms obsolete. In the
past 20 years, car theft has evolved from a juvenile pastime into a
$8.2 billion a year business. Eighty percent of cars are stolen by
organized crime. Alarms do not deter the pros.
ARE MANY GOOD ALTERNATIVES TO CAR ALARMS
There are numerous inexpensive and effective automobile security
products on the market today. If audible alarms were made illegal, car
owners would switch to more effective devices.
- Brake locks are
inexpensive (about $50) and difficult to defeat.
- Personal car alarm
pagers buzz a vehicle's owner when a car is disturbed rather than
annoying an entire neighborhood.
- Lojack uses global
positioning satellites to keep track of vehicles and often leads
police to the thieves' chop shops.
- Passive immobilizers
have reduced theft rates of some car models by as much as 77%.
THE CITY CAN LEGALLY BAN CAR ALARMS
New York City law currently limits audible alarms to three minutes of
noise and bans the use of motion sensors, the technology responsible for
most false alarms. These laws are ineffective and mostly unenforced.
- T.A. legal analysis
concludes that the City of New York has the authority to ban the
sale, use, or installation of audible motor vehicle alarms.
- City Council members
introduced a bill in 2000 to ban the sale and installation of car
alarms in New York City. The bill is currently buried in the City
Council Committee on Environmental Protection and has never received
a public hearing.
- Insiders say that a
ban on car alarms is being prevented by City Council members who are
afraid to take away the 5% discount on comprehensive coverage (less
than $20 per year on average) that some car owners receive for
having alarms in their vehicles.
Ban audible car alarms in New York City.
- As soon as budget
negotiations are done this spring, the City Council should hold a
public hearing on the car alarm legislation currently before the
Environmental Protection Committee (Int. 0194-2002).
- The legislation
should be modified to include a complete ban on the use of audible
alarms within the five boroughs.
- The New York State
Legislature should be urged to eliminate insurance discounts for car
alarms in a city of "one million or more."
The Cost of Car Alarms
1 See Appendix
A: Car Alarm Noise Cost Model. Please note that these numbers are
liable to change as we continue to develop our cost model.