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Anti-Noise Group Blows the Whistle on Keyless Entry Systems

“It’s time to say ‘enough.’”

by on Dec.20, 2012

Oh, someone must've just locked their car. Photo Courtesy:

Keyless entry systems are one of those little conveniences most of us have come to appreciate – unless your neighbor is using one at two in the morning.  Most sound the horn to signal when a door is locked or unlocked – loud enough to jolt even the deepest sleeper out of dreamland or shock a pedestrian walking by in a parking lot.

Now, an anti-noise group is blowing the whistle on keyless entry systems and demanding (softly) that makers turn down the volume. The organization, Noise Free America, has given the auto industry its Noisy Dozen Award for making the technology all but ubiquitous in today’s cars.

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“The honking car lock is a pointless disturber of the peace, even more frequent and annoying than car alarms,” laments the organizations Dr. Cullen Ruff, who serves as an Associate Professor at the Virginia Commonwealth school of Medicine, in Fairfax, Virginia.

The problem, the good doctor notes, is that automotive engineers seem to be engaged in an automotive arms race.

“At first, lights flashed to give owners confidence that their cars were locked,” said Dr. Ruff. “Some vehicles emitted a light chirping or clicking sound. But, inexplicably, some thoughtless engineer must have decided that the rest of the earth needed to hear a loud noise every time a car was locked. Day or night, urban or rural, we are now bombarded with sudden, jarring honking at excessive decibels, for absolutely no benefit to anyone. It’s time to say ‘enough.’”

Noise Free America notes that 80% of U.S. drivers manuals specifically warn that horns should only be used in specific situations – and locking your doors is not one of those – in fact, 40% limit horn use solely to emergencies.  In a number of cities, improper use of the horn can result in a ticket.

Yet, a quick survey by the organization revealed that two-thirds of the vehicles sold in the U.S. now rely on the horn to signal when a keyless entry system has been activated.

That may ease the concerns of motorists who want to be sure the vehicle has been locked, but Dr. Ruff observes that “the cumulative health effects of intrusive noise on blood-pressure, sleep disruption, and anxiety are real. Numerous studies have demonstrated that excessive noise is a substantial health hazard.”

The irony is that most manufacturers have made a priority of taming noise inside a car’s interior — even as they increase the decibel level for folks outside. The good news is that Toyota and Subaru have switched to softer chirps on some models, but most keyless entry systems continue to blare.

Noise Free America is calling on Congress to outlaw the use of horns in keyless entry systems. Whether that will unite a partisan Washington remains to be seen.

“Remote keyless entry systems are ridiculous,” contends Ted Rueter, Noise Free America’s director. “What is so hard about locking your car with a lock? What is so hard about using a silent remote door locking device? What is so hard about using a tire gauge to check the air pressure on your tires? These ‘innovations’ dreamed up by corporate engineers are making the world a much noisier and less pleasant place to live. The European Union mandates the use of optical signals to confirm that a door has been locked; the US government should do the same. It is time to end the madness of unnecessary noise.”

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4 Responses to “Anti-Noise Group Blows the Whistle on Keyless Entry Systems”

  1. kywlcts says:

    The horm sounding may be considered a problem, but it is not a problem if you own a Chysler.Owners manual instructions for my 2008 Sebring limited showed me how to disable the horn sound (Therefore,I only get lights flashing to indicate the doors are locked or unlocked).

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      I’ve found a number of vehicles allow the owner to disable or reduce the level of the audible alert. As far as I can tell, however, you may be the only person who has actually done so.

      In general, despite a range of customization options on many of the latest vehicles, folks tend to largely stick with the factory settings unless a (rare) sales or service person actually asks a buyer if they’d like to customize the settings.

      Paul A. Eisenstein

  2. karlraab says:

    When we moved back to Canada in 2007 we were amazed to hear all the honking from the same models/makes of cars as we had experienced for 20 years in Europe. Walking home one dark and wet evening, just as I reached the middle of a local intersection, I was startled by a loud and sharp honk from somewhere behind me. Instinctively, I stopped and turned to see from where the potential danger was approaching. Luckily, it was just a guy locking his Explorer! That scary moment convinced me it was time to ban this technology, not only for its annoyance factor, but also for its negative public safety implications. I’m glad that a just such a campaign is already underway.

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      Hi, Karl,

      I’ve likewise been surprised by some vehicles’ keyless alerts, especially the 2013 Ram 1500 I recently test drove. My driveway is tight between two houses in my old neighborhood and I was embarrassed at the likelihood I woke up my neighbors at 1 AM.

      The worst car system I ever heard, however, was an alarm system that somebody put on a Jaguar some years back. It wasn’t the usual motion sensor or such but a proximity system designed to not let you even get close to the vehicle. I was parked next to them and simply walking up to get into my own car set it off (from a good 5-10 feet). It not only had a warbling alarm noise but blared out a recording, “Move away from the car. Move away from the car.” Must’ve made those folks extremely popular wherever they went!

      Paul A. Eisenstein