Keyless horn-honking sets unsound precedent

It’s my pet peeve: people locking their cars with remote devices after they have walked a good distance from their car, leaving the loud horn to jolt anyone who happens to be walking past. Does anyone still react to a car horn as a danger signal anymore? – Peace N. Quiet

Our modern world is filled with noisy irritants, such as the aforementioned car horns, most ring tones and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

Sadly, there is very little one can do. The Lone Star gasbag can talk all night if he so wishes and cellphones will continue to go off at concerts and funerals.

But it just might be illegal to have your vehicle honk to confirm its doors are locked.

That comes from a scholarly paper presented this June at the International Congress on Acoustics.

Yes, there is such a group. And apparently 2,300 experts registered for the shindig, held this year in Montreal.

It makes one wonder what kind of band would be hired to entertain a convention of noise nerds.

Anyway, Jeanine Botta, a grad student at CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College, presented a paper called, “Remote keyless entry honking, convenience horn honking, and audible car alarms: redundancies and quieter options.”

It contained some sound observations (pun intended, of course).

In the 1980s and ’90s, most cars featured a chirping noise as an audible confirmation of locked doors. But then automakers began using the horn – which every vehicle is required to have – instead of the quieter “chirps.”

Of the nearly 79 million vehicles sold in the United States between 2007 and 2012, about 53 million have their horns tied to their keyless lock.

Yet the horn is supposed to be used only in an emergency. In Colorado, state law limits honking only to “when reasonably necessary to ensure safe operation.”

Botta minces no words on her website: “It is difficult to understand why engineers would use a warning device to indicate whether a car is locked and armed, a nonemergency situation if ever there was one.

“It is unfathomable that automakers would do so when quieter security indicators have always been available, and when they spent years and billions of dollars trying to make cars quieter,” she said.

Her survey in two major cities showed that the noise of honking, including that from remote keyless entry, ranged from 58 to 84 decibels.

Durango’s city code limits noise in residential areas to 55 decibels in the day and 50 at night. In commercial zones, the thresholds are 60 daytime and 55 night.

So there are already laws disallowing lock-honking. It’s just that they are not enforced.

And no one is calling for immediate relief from the City Council, although who knows what crusade it will embrace after the bag ban is settled and everyone can legally convert their filthy garages into overpriced student slums.

Rather than make this an enforcement issue, let’s just lock our vehicle doors when we get out of the vehicle. If you are unsure of your security status, simply lift the handle.

When it comes to ambient honking, leave that to the geese flying south.

b b b

Last week’s rant on the bag ban and green chiles spiced things up in the Mea Culpa Mailbag.

“You have once again written an outrageous piece. This might be the best ever,” writes our friend Louise Teal.

“Not only did I laugh like crazy, I love how your humor points out our inconsistencies – yet helps us with practical stuff.”

Another good friend, “Susan,” enjoyed “one of your best snarky, hilarious columns. Bravo for continuing to point out the stupidity of the anti-plastic crowd.”

Loyal reader “Sue” concurred. “The right amount of fact and sarcasm. Lovely balance.”

Others were not so impressed.

“Michelle” expressed her disappointment thusly: “You used to be funny. Now you are just a hack that uses the polarization of our country and your own neighbors as a substitute for true humor in journalism.”

Email questions to or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if you toot your own horn.

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