A Voice for Those Who Will Not or Cannot Speak

Summer 2014

Karen Hansen (with Sammie)
New York City special education teacher

Summer in residential communities, with hot weather and open windows, always brings a new array of sounds for people and their pets to deal with. The celebration of the Fourth of July is a summer tradition, but animal lovers and pet owners are all too familiar with the stressful emotional and physiological toll the use of fireworks takes on their pets. Noise from fireworks scares our pets - they become startled and anxious and even run to hide. They pant and shake as a result of unexpected loud noises. Some animals even require the use of tranquilizers. Animal advocacy groups and web sites provide information on how to help our pets to cope during fireworks and natural events like thunderstorms.

People deal with a similar stressful situation on a daily basis - not just from holiday season firecrackers, but from the sudden unexpected sound of a honking horn as car doors are locked and unlocked. People just walking down a street can be startled by this sound.

As a teacher of special needs students, I have witnessed how horn honks outside of the classroom distract and startle my students. Horn sounds used to confirm locking car doors disrupt the flow of the lesson and interfere with my students' ability to concentrate and learn. Any jarring noise that occurs without warning can be detrimental to their education and to their emotional well being. All students deserve to have a quiet learning environment free from unnecessary distractions.

Animals also respond to the short horn blast that certain cars offer for lock confirmation. A cat sitting in a window will flinch at the sound, while a dog walking too close to a honking car will momentarily cringe, however briefly, in a display of fear. With cars that use a delayed alert sound, it is not uncommon to see this occur while the car owner is halfway down the block, or inside the house, unaware of the cringing dog, the startled dog walker, the student doing homework inside a nearby house, the shift worker who was just about to fall asleep - and on and on, so many times every day.

A honking horn used to signify the locking of car doors does nothing to improve the driving experience. Horn-based alerts add unwanted noise and distractions to communities everywhere. Several automakers transitioned away from the horn sound years ago, while others never used the sound. During the last several years, three automakers have begun the process of transitioning their lock alert sound away from use of the horn. I hope that all car manufacturers will review and address this source of invasive and stressful noise.

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