Thursday, June 28, 2007

Car audio – and cops

Auto accessories like a stereo "boombox" for drivers who persistently induce a nuisance in their community by playing music at overly higher volumes risk having their audio equipment confiscated by cops.

This law makes it an offence to create any noise likely to cause annoyance or discomfort to any resident in the area, and that includes noise emitting from vehicles.

Officers will issue drivers with one warning before they are reported for prosecution. If the case should go to court, the driver could be punished with a CI$500 fine for the first offence, CI$1000 for a second offence and a CI$5000 fine and prison term of six months for a third offence. In addition, upon conviction, the court may order the equipment to be confiscated.

The Cayman Islands are the latest jurisdiction to tackle the problem of what are known as ‘Boom’ cars.

In the USA, local noise codes in at least two major cities have been revised to clamp down on ‘Boom’ cars. In Florida, a citizen has successfully sued the owner of a ‘Boom’ car for damages and police in the UK seized a “Boom’ car after deeming it to be causing alarm, distress or annoyance to the general public.

In addition to the noise nuisance outside the vehicle, Car audio ‘Boom’ cars are believed to present significant health hazards to their occupants.

A website in the USA advises that people who are exposed to this type of noise on a daily basis suffer from hearing loss, sleep deprivation, chronic fatigue, anxiety, hostility, depression and hypertension.

The advice continues, “To those who drive in boom cars, besides causing permanent hearing damage, the noise is damaging to the nervous system. Many boomers claim that the infrasound noise (low frequency bass sound) induces an addictive drug-like euphoric effect.”

The medical journal Thorax reported the cases of four young men who suffered a lung collapse triggered by loud bass music. Three of the men were at a concert or club, while the fourth was in a boom car outfitted with a 1,000-watt bass system.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that one-quarter of vehicle accidents are caused by driver distraction. Drivers experience reduced reaction times when listening to loud music and adjusting the controls on their car stereo equipment. Another problem they identify is the fact that the pounding bass noise decreases drivers’ ability to hear pedestrians and other vehicles. This includes emergency vehicles, such as police cars audio, ambulances and fire trucks.

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