Summer 2004, p.14

Sensible Transportation
City Council Chooses Lazy Lockers Over a Good Night’s Sleep

Despite tremendous public support for a full ban on the use of car alarms, including a T.A. rally on the steps of city hall in May, the City Council has continued to drag its feet on voting to curb the pointless and unnecessary noise.

Despite tremendous public support for a full ban on the use of car alarms, including a T.A. rally on the steps of city hall in May, the City Council has continued to drag its feet on voting to curb the pointless and unnecessary noise.

On Thursday, June 10, the City Council Environmental Protection Committee held a public hearing on Int. 81, a proposed bill to ban only the sale and installation of new car alarm sirens. Though noble, the council’s intent to stop car alarm noise would not be served under Int. 81. Sirens could continue to blare as long as they were installed outside of New York City. Since most New York drivers buy their cars outside of the five boroughs, and have alarms fitted at the dealer, very few cars would be affected by this law. And all of the existing alarms would continue to blare.

The Council scheduled the hearing after T.A. held a rally on the steps of city hall demanding that City Council Speaker Gifford Miller deliver on his promise to hold a hearing on the car alarm legislation that had been introduced in Spring 2003. The Council’s Environmental Protection Committee held an initial hearing in June 2003 but, despite tremendous public support, Miller repeatedly postponed a second hearing. T.A. had hoped that Miller would schedule a hearing on Int. 115, which would ban the use of car alarms in New York City. This proposed bill would truly end the riotous rein of car alarms in the city, and could be simply and practically enforced. Police could ticket without hesitation; drivers could comply without confusion; and citizens could apply the social pressure that has made “pooper-scooper” laws effective.

At the recent hearing, representatives from BMW, Daimler-Chrysler and Toyota/Lexus confirmed Transportation Alternatives’ independent analysis based on car owner manuals and interviews with car manufacturers and alarm installers that it is easy for car owners to switch off their car alarms while parked on New York City streets. Nearly every car alarm can be deactivated through a valet procedure, active arming or simply by not using the power locks and locking their car doors manually. To the Council, this was asking too much; ostensibly, they really need the lazy locker vote—those few New Yorkers in possession of both a rare type of alarm and a singular disdain for the peace of their fellow citizens.

Even for those few cars that are equipped with alarms not easily deactivated, a ban on the use of car alarms is still reasonable. This tiny minority of drivers would only be subject to a fine if their alarm goes off; which, on a properly functioning alarm, is supposed to happen only when a thief is tampering with the car. If an alarm truly is working properly, its owner ought to be willing to run the risk of a ticket to alert the attention of the police.

In a last minute session on June 28, the City Council Environmental Protection Committee passed an amended version of Int. 81. As we go to press, the full city council is scheduled to vote on the bill on July 21. Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg has released proposed revisions to the city’s noise code. Though, unfortunately, the proposal does not call for a full ban on the use of car alarms, it does call for a study of such a move. T.A. will continue to work with the administration and city council to move towards liberating New Yorkers from the pointless and obnoxious wail of alarms. Forever.

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