Is the search for an effective car alarm sound over?
The car alarm is possibly the most ignored sound in Britain, with 99% of drivers and householders saying they wouldn’t go to investigate if they heard one sounding.
A survey by a nationwide car leasing company has found that the constant beep-beep-beep of a vehicle alarm tops the list of late-night annoyances in suburban living, usually because they are almost always false alarms which disturb sleep and waste time.
The Flexed.co.uk company has instead turned to drivers and householders to come up with alternative sounds for car alarms that deter criminals and get people coming to investigate, and have settled for a favourite which might come as a bit of a surprise.
“It’s one of those facts of life that nobody does anything about a late-night car alarm,” Flexed.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall said. “You might get the odd twitch of a curtain, but the huge majority think it’s somebody else’s problem, even if the damned horn doesn’t stop for several hours.”
“We end up with a ‘Boy who cried wolf’ thing. Genuine thefts go unnoticed simply because there have been so many false alarms.”
Flexed.co.uk asked 3000 people whether they would investigate a car alarm at certain times and locations. The results showed a huge apathy toward the unrelenting horns, whistles and sirens:
- In a public car park: 98% said ‘no’
- In their street at night: 99% said ‘no’
- In their work car park: only 5% said ‘yes’
- At home, and they knew it was their own car: Only 26% said they’d go and look
“Most people now consider the sound of a vehicle alarm to be a false alarm,” says Hall, “and even most owners say their most likely reaction would be to reset the device using the remote control and go back to bed.”
Hall puts this lack of reaction down to the simple fact that car technology has moved on in recent years. Most cars now have immobilisers, which mean alarms are only set off by vandalism or break-ins. “Or, as some cynics might suggest, a leaf falling off a tree two streets away,” he says.
What would get people paying attention to car crime would be if alarms made a more natural noise that would prompt people to investigate. Flexed asked the same 3000 people what sounds would improve vehicle alarms enough for them to be taken more seriously. Some, we think, would be more effective than others:
- Baby crying
- Sound of a police siren
- Dog barking
- Ice cream van jingle
- Heavy metal guitar
- Classic FM (“It keeps me out of my mum’s kitchen at any rate”)
- A Nigel Farage speech
- Air raid siren
- The white noise that some emergency vehicles now use
- A human voice that calls out for help
Flexed.co.uk says that human voices have been tried before for car alarms, with limited success.
“The problem was that they used voice artists that sounded like they were in a studio,” said Flexed’s Mark Hall. “Alarms need a number of different voices that sound natural, that invite people to investigate. We’d certainly investigate a realistic cry for help.”
However, the one suggestion that every householder and car owner can support is a simple one:
- A short burst of sound while the alarm sends an alert to the car owner’s phone
“Surely that’s not beyond the minds of alarm developers?” Flexed.co.uk ‘s Mark Hall asks, “This will have the desired effect and let the rest of us have a good night’s sleep for once.”
But the one suggestion that Flexed.co.uk likes the most is the ice cream jingle.
“Who can resist the sound of an ice cream van?” says Hall, “Even at three in the morning, I’d be out there waiting for a 99 with sprinkles.”