No set rules for noisy car chirps and honks
I wonder if some of the newer cars must honk the horn when the car is locked. I have been startled off my cane in a parking lot, sitting quietly in church and even hopping on my couch when someone's car honks suddenly.
Is it automatic, or are some trying to get attention? Are they just proud that they can push a button?
— Signed "Can You Hear Me Now," via dropped-off note
Much like those hypersensitive car alarms warning neighbors blocks away of semi-trucks and wind gusts, cars that conspicuously lock themselves seem to be another needless annoyance in our modern world.
We researched the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, the regulations enforced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that oversee minute details of vehicles sold in the United States such as steering wheel locks and the automatic transmission gear selector shift order. We were hoping we'd find that newer vehicles must abide by some sort of regulation regarding how they confirm they've been locked. Unfortunately there's no such regulation, so it's up to vehicle manufacturers to decide whether the car leaves the factory set on silent or "parking lot cane-startling."
Most cars that default to an audible confirmation offer ways to lock silently. Some of those ways are simple. Most newer Honda, Ford and Chrysler models merely blip their turn signals if you press the "lock" button once, and honk the horn only when pressed a second time.
Locking the doors quietly in other vehicles can be more cryptic. Instructions for disabling the default piezoelectric lock chirp in many late model Toyotas are a bit too complicated for our little column, and should probably be left to the dealer or the whiz kid down the street.
If this brand of noise pollution is a cause you'd like to take up, you'd hardly be alone. We found North Carolina non-profit organization Noise Free America has set up local chapters in 27 states, although Oregon has yet to be one of them. Similarly, the website SilencetheHorns.org is a project that seeks to "eliminate non-emergency honking at its source."