Stop those backup beeps


To the editor:

Every neighborhood has construction crews building or repairing infrastructure at some time. A constant of this condition is backup alarms on construction vehicles. We all hate them, but they are not just a quality of life annoyance — they are dangerous to our health.

May New York City be the first to end this assault on the senses.

According to Dr. Chantal Laroche, professor of audiology and speech at the University of Ottawa, industrial backup beeps are at a level between 97 and 112 decibels. A 70-decibel or less sound is accepted as being healthy for humans. Sustained sounds at or above 85 decibels are more likely to damage hearing over time.

Besides the damage to hearing, the accompanying lack of sleep causes irritability. The constant nerve-jangling causes anger and lack of patience. These effects manifest themselves in myriad ways, ranging from grumpiness to nastiness to violence.

But it’s about safety, right?

Backup alarms don’t even effectively do the job they are intended to do. When one hears these beeps blocks away from where any actual danger is, they are just annoying and anger-producing. Close up, the human nervous system inures itself to the constant regular beeping, thus mitigating any safety effect.

Due to the nature of human hearing and balance in the inner ear, in most circumstances, humans cannot — often with the aid of sight — locate the source of the beeping (the potentially dangerous vehicle), thus providing no aid to safety.

And when there are more than one vehicle beeping, it’s just madness.

Sometimes, of course, alarms are necessary for worker and pedestrian safety. But the default “always on” status of backup alarms not only does not keep anyone safe, but it hurts people. On some vehicles, these beeps are active even when the vehicle is sitting still.

This is a health issue. It also is a quality of life issue. It’s an issue that everyone should get politically active about immediately.

Can I get an “amen”?

Buzz Roddy

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Buzz Roddy,