Right to Quiet Society Noiseletter
Fall 2010 – page 4

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Good News

RtoQ-member John M. informed us that the City of Albany, New York, has set up a flashing electronic billboard at Lark Street, warning motorcyclists about needlessly loud machines. The four photographs that John sent us (and will be posted on our website) show the following phrases in succession:


Driving distractions

In January 2010, the B.C. government followed several other Canadian provinces making it unlawful to text/e-mail while driving or to use a hand held phone while driving. "This means that you cannot talk, type or dial on any hand held device while driving," according to then Solicitor General Kash Heed. Fines and penalty points began to be levied on February 1, 2010.

A person using a cell phone while driving clearly increases the risk of an accident. Moreover, a recent study has proven that distracted drivers are more likely than impaired drivers to cause an accident. According to independent research and studies, cellphone use while driving is the prime cause of distracted driving.

Records show that 117 people die each year in B.C. and 1,400 are hospitalized because someone was not paying proper attention behind the wheel.

However, cellphone use is not the only cause of distracted driving. Listening to excessively loud


music via tape-decks, radio, or head phones compromises a driver's alertness to the world outside his/her vehicle. Indeed, many drivers often play music at such a high decibel level that it is audible even inside other vehicles around them.

These so called boom cars are often as loud as emergency-vehicle sirens, and they can frequently be heard several blocks away. As a result, ambulance/fire sirens have had to raise their decibel levels in order to compete with all this other noise.

In British Columbia, it is illegal to generate music above a certain level in your vehicle, but the level must be accurately measured by an enforcement officer, via a decibel meter, in order for a prosecution to be made. In Europe, there are some municipalities which have similar regulations, also. When people's lives are at stake, policing authorities should consider all factors relating to preventable deaths and enact appropriate legislation to reduce them.

— By Carole A. Martyn

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Why are we annoyed when overhearing cellphone conversations?

By Walker Simon, Reuters, May 2010

Ever wonder why overhearing a cellphone conversation is so annoying? American researchers think they have found the answer. Whether it is in the office, on a train or in a car, only half of the conversation is overheard, which drains more attention and concentration than when overhearing two people talking, according to scientists at Cornell University.

"We have less control to move away our attention from half a conversation (or halfalogue) than when listening to a dialogue," said Lauren Emberson, a co author of the study that will be published in the journal Psychological Science. "Since halfalogues really are more distracting and you can't tune them out, this could explain why people are irritated," she said in an interview.

Last year Americans spent 2.3 trillion minutes chatting on cellphones, according to the U.S. wireless trade association CTIA—a ninefold increase since 2000. Worldwide, there are about 4.6 billion cellphone subscribers, according to the International Telecommunications Union, a U.N. agency. The number is equal to about two thirds of the world's population, leaving few corners of the globe where public spaces are free of mobile tethered babblers.


China has the most cellphone users with 634 million, followed by India with 545 million and the United States with 270 million, figures from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) show.

Emberson said people try to make sense of snippets of conversation and predict what speakers will say next. "When you hear half of a conversation, you get less information and you can't predict as well," she said. "It requires more attention."

The findings by Emberson and her co author Michael Goldstein are based on research involving 41 college students who did concentration exercises, like tracking moving dots, while hearing one or both parties during a cell-phone conversation.

The study shows that overhearing a cellphone conversation affects the attention we use in our daily tasks, including driving, Emberson said. "These results suggest that a driver's attention can be impaired by a passenger's cell phone conversation," according to the study. It recommends similar studies should be conducted with driving simulators.

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