By Hugh Muir
When Ritchie Warren plays his car stereo at a level he regards as unexceptional, the bass booms and snarls, waves of sound enveloping everyone and everything in their path. Warren views the experience as life affirming: “If you think of explosions, thunder, volcanos, they all release a subsonic sound. Booming sounds increase the adrenaline. It is a tribal and a cultural thing. Bass is like the voice of God.” But for millions in towns and cities throughout Britain, the seemingly limitless power and ferocity of in-car music systems is closer to a curse.
Officials in London have begun discussing how they might clamp down on the antisocial use of monster stereos. They are considering penalising owners with penalty tickets or restriction orders. Many modified stereos will pump out 100 decibels but Warren’s system, once judged the world’s loudest, can reach 154, comparable to Concorde. A pneumatic drill emits 80 dB.
The police in London say they are willing to lobby for a change in the law to impose restrictions. Other authorities are experimenting with their own solutions. In Wales, officials have been targeting hotspots, hoping to modify the behaviour of those who cooperate and punish those who will not. In Scotland police can confiscate offending vehicles.
Marie Maguire, 42, lives in a second-storey flat above an intersection in south London. She says the noise from cars stopped at the traffic lights is intolerable. “Some of them shake the house. The windows rattle. Watching television is almost impossible. It is just getting worse.”
The problem is far from straight-forward. Anyone causing a noise nuisance from premises or from a stationary vehicle in the street can have an abatement notice served on them. But there is the practical difficulty of catching a moving vehicle and demonstrating
that the noise, for the short duration it occurs in one place, constitutes a nuisance in law. One possibility is that police be empowered to make a subjective “judgement of nuisance”. They might take action after obtaining the owner’s details through the computer system.
The prospect was a hot topic of conversation at the major car modifications industry event Max Power Live, billed as the “fastest, loudest car show ever”, held in Birmingham last July. Taking pride of place at the event was Warren’s Dodge Challenger, its giant exterior speakers hoisted by hydraulics. Unsurprisingly, he has no time for those who want a quiet life, especially those in London.
-The Guardian Weekly
Some of the worst offenders assaulting the soundscape surely are boom-cars. Last year we wrote the director of environmental health of the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority to bring in legislation against the sale, installation and use of these obnoxious noise boxes that serve no good purpose, other than to gratify the users’ ego. It was suggested to us to write the provincial government and MLAs and request corresponding amendments to the B.C Motor Vehicle Act, since municipal noise control bylaws are inadequate to effectively deal with this problem. The same, of course, goes for deliberately modified mufflers.
We renew our call to all members to write our provincial representatives, tell them what a menace these boom-boxes are in our communities and demand proper effective action (i.e. first, a stern warning; second, a hefty fine; third, confiscation of the equipment; forth, loss of driver’s licence and possible incarceration). And the federal government ought to act similarly with respect to manufacturing or importing of such equipment. Our members residing outside B.C. or Canada, please approach your corresponding authorities to work for better legislation and, simultaneously, education to curb this unhealthy, often dangerous torment.