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Motor Mouth articles 2007

A big noise in the city

Stop that noise!

IF I were to list all the things in modern motoring that drive me to hair-tugging distraction and unreasonable fury, I’d probably make Victor Meldrew seem as tolerant and equable as Mother Teresa. So I won’t.

But if I did, then right up there near the top of the hate parade of things that send my blood pressure soaring is having my ear-drums pummelled by the mega-decibel thump of what passes for music bellowing from a passing car’s hi-fi system.

There is the brain-rattling volume for a start – combined with the fact that the numbskull piloting this thing invariably has his or her windows wound down so that everyone within a two-mile radius can share the experience. If it stood still long enough, it would be called noise pollution and the environmental health department would prosecute.

Then there is the self-satisfied smirk on the face of the pubescent perpetrator, announcing to an unimpressed world that he’s a high-achiever because he’s managed to turn the volume knob to full on. In fact, his intellectual level comes somewhere between a retarded sea-slug and a lump of wood.

The music itself is invariably ghastly beyond words, and the vehicle in which this reptile is posing and posturing its way through the traffic is more often than not an ancient heap, garnished with big tailpipe and daft paint job, and probably worth a fraction as much as its own radio.

I’d like to be able to step in front of them and perform a citizen’s arrest on the grounds of public naffness but instead I comfort myself in the sure and certain knowledge that they’ll soon be deaf as proverbial posts and thus doomed to life in a world of muffle and confusion.

Now, oh joy, I learn that loud, fast, heavy-beat music really does dramatically increase the risk of a driver being involved in an accident – preferably a collision with another member of the head-banging clown variety.

A driving instructor and member of GEM Motoring Assist, the organisation formerly known as the Guild of Experienced Motorists, has carried out some tests to support the theory. Her name is Audrey Wixon but never mind.

“The root cause of many accidents is a driver’s failure to pay attention and research has shown that loud music depletes concentration by 20 per cent,” she says. “If a song is above 60 beats per minute it will cause the heart rate and blood pressure to rise.” Yes, mine too.

Audrey says up-tempo music makes people want to drive faster – she has tested it out on some of her pupils as they approach their driving tests, apparently – but she has found that pupils drove perfectly when the music was slow and gentle.

She said that the car engine was also being overstressed in a low gear because the driver could not hear it roaring. And, with the giant speakers booming out, the driver would not be able to hear a horn or an emergency vehicle approaching.

“Keep the music at a reasonable level and choose a calming number,” is her recommendation for safer and incident-free driving.

Police and traffic wardens should be issued with noise monitors so offenders can be arrested on the spot and flung into padded cells, and their vehicles impounded and crushed. At least, that’s what I’d say if I were an intolerant sort . . .

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