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Today's Boom Cars Are Nothing If Not Acoustic Terrorism
by Ted Rueter

A crew in Phoenix has been customizing "the Beast," a Ford Bronco with a car stereo designed to pump out a whopping 175 decibels, reports Wired magazine. The Bronco's 48,000-watt system would be eight times louder than a 747 jet.

Hollywood Sound Labs, a manufacturer of car stereos, brags that its equipment can "shake seats and annoy neighbors." Prestige Stereo boasts that its four-channel 120 watt amp will "put the over-40 set into cardiac arrest." Lightning Audio gloats that its products "make you bleed," and Sony's slogan for its Xplod speakers is "disturb the peace."

Well, there is no peace when a boom car is around. These brutal, excruciatingly loud cars with powerful booming bass can be heard for more than a mile. They can shake your windows and furniture. And they are an increasing element in American life. At the recent International Sound Off in Kansas City-where cars and drivers competed for the highest volume-one boom car owner conceded that he doesn't listen to his own system much because "I'd go deaf."

He's probably right. Boom car noise is physically dangerous. Besides the obvious hearing problems, the American Psychiatric Assn. reports that noise is related to chronic fatigue syndrome. The Environmental Protection Agency has long recognized noise as a risk factor for heart disease.

Boom cars are a public safety hazard as well. They increase the chance of accidents by distracting motorists and making it more difficult for drivers to hear emergency sirens. In addition, these instruments of auditory assault encourage the worst elements of sexist behavior and hypermasculinity: the desire for domination, feelings of aggression and belligerence toward society.

The acoustic terrorism fostered by boom cars runs counter to the desire of most Americans for peace and quiet. The Census Bureau notes that noise is Americans' No. 1 complaint about their neighborhoods. Noise levels have risen sixfold in major U.S. cities in the past 15 years, and automobiles are the largest source of noise.

Peace-loving citizens need to reclaim the streets. Some have already begun: In Chicago, boom cars that can be heard from 75 feet are subject to seizure and their owners may be fined $615. Buffalo, Cleveland and Pittsburgh also are cracking down on boom cars. In Papillion, Neb., owners of car stereos that can be heard from 50 feet away can earn themselves three months in jail.

Besides petitioning their local officials to enact similar laws, there are other things that people can do to save their hearing and their sanity. Auto stereo manufacturers should be pressured to stop glorifying audio violence. Companies that gloat about disturbing the peace should hear from angry consumers. Police carrying decibel meters and driving with their windows down should be on the lookout for noise violators. And the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration should place restrictions on how much noise can be generated by car stereo equipment.

It's time, in other words, for a little peace on Earth.

Published in The Los Angeles Times, March 27, 2002.

This article was also published in:
  • The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
  • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • The Bay City (Michigan) Times
  • The Detroit News
  • The Daytona (Florida) News-Journal
  • The Edmonton Journal
  • The Idaho Statesman-Review
  • The Irish Times
  • The Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal-Star
  • The Longmont (Colorado) Daily Call
  • The Palm Beach Post
  • The Record (Bergan County, New Jersey)
  • The Sacramento Bee
  • The San Jose Mercury News
  • The San Luis Obispo (California) Tribune
  • The Sarasota Herald-Tribune
  • The St. Augustine Record
  • The Tucson Citizen
  • The Virginian Daily Pilot
  • The Youngstown (Ohio) Vindicator

 
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