29 January 2023
Officials in New York City are using technology to cut down on noise on city streets. Cameras equipped with radar sound collectors identify loud vehicles in an effort to catch drivers violating noise rules.
New York officials say at least 71 people have received fines for operating cars or trucks that make too much noise. The city's Department of Environmental Protection now has plans to expand the use of technology to enforce noise rules.
City Council member Erik Bottcher told The Associated Press (AP) vehicles with illegally changed parts can produce extremely loud sounds. He said they have been a growing problem in recent years. Bottcher supports the use of radar to reduce noise in the city.
New York City already has some of the strongest rules in the country aimed at limiting noise on city streets. It has set permissible noise levels for building tools and vehicles.
The new devices record the vehicle numbers of offenders, who then receive a violation notice in the mail. Owners face fines of $800 for a first noise offense. Some could be required to pay up to $2,625 if they have three violations and ignore court hearings.
The AP says there is evidence to support the idea that noise affects not only hearing but also mood and mental health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) even says there are possible links between noise and higher risks for heart disease and raised blood pressure.
"You listen to the noise out there, it is nonstop – the horns, the trucks, the sirens," New York City Mayor Eric Adams recently told reporters at a press conference. "Noise pollution makes it hard to sleep and increases the risk of chronic disease."
The word "chronic" describes something, like a disease, that lasts a long time.
Nearly 10 years ago, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a campaign against noise. A 45-page document included a series of rules such as ringing ice cream trucks and dog barking.
Restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic reduced some noise in the city. But the number of noise complaints actually increased during the pandemic. Some experts say that was because people who were forced to stay home became more sensitive to noise.
Complaints over noisy neighbors nearly doubled in the first year of the pandemic. Other complaints about cars and motorcycles with loud engines also increased.
However, some people in the city say the government efforts to quiet loud vehicles have gone too far. One person opposed to the policy is Phillip Franklin, a 30-year-old car lover from the Bronx area of New York. He launched an online effort to protest noise rules.
"The majority of us live here in New York City, where noise is a part of our daily lives," said a document explaining his effort. Franklin noted that quiet vehicles can also present dangers to inattentive individuals walking around New York City.
"Fixing potholes is a lot more important than going after noisy cars," Franklin told the AP. A pothole is a hole in the road caused by weather or other environmental conditions.
The CDC has said loud noise – especially once it hits 120 decibels – can cause immediate harm to one's ears. Even listening to continual noise above 70 decibels can damage hearing over time, experts say. A motorcycle produces about 95 decibels of noise.
Even with sound barriers, close-fitting windows and noise-reducing materials, there is only so much that can be done to reduce sound levels in the city. Many New Yorkers have simply learned to live with the noise.
"I think people developed an appreciation for the fact that it's a messy, noisy city," said NYU researcher Bello. "We like it to be active, and we like it to be lively. And we like it to be full of jobs and activity, and not this sort of scary, quite unnerving place."
I'm Bryan Lynn.
The Associated Press reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for Learning English.
Words in This Story
mood – n. the way someone feels at a particular time
siren – n. a piece of equipment that makes a loud noise as a warning
complaint – n. a statement that something is wrong or not satisfactory
appreciation – n. an understanding of the qualities of a person or a thing
scary – adj. frightening; causing fear
unnerve – v. to make someone feel nervous or frightened