Traffic noise causes stress and heart disease

To the Editor:
Real-estate websites now list a “noise rating” for every house for sale because people don’t want to live on noisy roads. When you buy a house for $600,000, you are probably buying some peace and quiet because rich people don’t have to live with traffic noise like the rest of us.

Putting 2,000 more cars on Western Avenue, the likely result of so much new construction, will add to the 20,000 cars that currently use Western Avenue daily. When homeowners on or near Western Avenue are eventually forced to flee the noise, their devalued houses will be bought for commercial purposes and the new businesses will bring in more cars. Without some serious changes, the neighborhood is doomed.

Now that this increased noise has been inflicted upon us, despite our protests, the town officials who allowed it to happen need to think of ways they can at least make it not as bad. Let’s improve what we can. Sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks, after-market mufflers, trucks, motorcycles, and road practices are the culprits.

SUVs account for 80 percent of new car purchases. Unfortunately, the SUV adds more poisons and ozone-depleting substances to the air, is less fuel efficient, is more deadly to other vehicles and pedestrians, and is noisier than a smaller sedan.

People have bought the SUV because it does better on bad roads and carries more stuff but the number of pedestrian deaths involving an SUV last year increased 120 percent while the sedan’s increased 26 percent.

There is a race to be in the biggest, tallest vehicle on the road but for every 1,000-pound increase in vehicle weight, there is a 46-percent increase in motor fatalities. Today’s SUV is an absurd looking, and deadly vehicle, especially for children.

A decade ago in Europe, the height of hoods had to be lowered: With a low hood, a person struck goes over the hood while a person struck by a vehicle with a higher hood is run over. We don’t have the snow we used to have so is there still a good reason to buy an SUV?

New York legislators have proposed a bill that would base registration fees for vehicles on weight because oversized vehicles are more destructive to infrastructure and more costly to accommodate on roads and in parking lots. Some fees could be over $1,000.

Pickup trucks were originally working vehicles, their size no larger than it needed to be. Some people need a pickup, but they are mostly a vehicle to satisfy “petro-masculinity.”

Speeders are emboldened in a vehicle that sits above everyone else. The cab has gotten taller and wider while the bed, the sole justification for owning this thing, has gotten smaller.

These 12,000-pound monsters are four times more likely to kill a pedestrian while turning left than a sedan, because the pillars that support the roof impair vision. The height of these monsters results in damage to the upper torso of the human body, which is more deadly than striking the lower half of the body.

These killers should be made cheap to rent, short term, for that once-a-year event when you actually need a pickup. A van rental for an afternoon would be cheaper and carry a lot more. Increasing the cost to license these vehicles will hopefully deter new buyers.

After-market mufflers, like the noisiest one available, the Hot Tamale, are bought to replace the factory muffler so that the driver can attract more attention. These people with their neurotic need to be heard contribute so much to traffic noise.

New York’s 2021 SLEEP [Stop Loud and Excessive Exhaust Pollution] Act raises fines from $150 to $1,000 for illegal modifications to mufflers and exhaust systems. Enforce this law!

New York City has installed noise cameras that are triggered by a certain decibel level to photograph the car. The lawbreaker gets a bill in the mail.

There is nothing good about traffic noise: It causes stress and heart disease and the rest of us shouldn’t have to tolerate this perverse behavior.

There are 8 million motorcycles registered in the United States and 38 percent of those have had their quieter factory exhaust system replaced with a much noisier after-market system to draw attention to themselves. That number is 70 percent for Harleys. These noisy modifications are already illegal but rarely enforced.

High-speed roads are now constructed with a material that is smoother, has a higher porosity, and absorbs more sound called LNRS (low noise road surface). Let’s resurface all our local roads with LNRS.

Let’s slow down the traffic and make it stop less often. Slower cars make less noise and cars accelerating cause more noise and pollution. Let’s plant evergreens to absorb sound and pollution along busy roads instead of busily cutting them down.

Electric vehicles, quieter and less polluting, are slowly catching on. They won’t be paying gas taxes, and I don’t know how they will be charged for registration. I do know that someday traffic noise could be a low hum that doesn’t destroy air quality if our officials would do something about all this.

Read Lloyd Alter and Alissa Walker.

Joan Mckeon


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