Monday, July 28, 2014

Editorial: Is the Basic Car Alarm Still Effective?

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Not too long ago, I was awoken in the middle of the night by a car alarm that suddenly started blaring at a nearby apartment complex. Knowing the alarm sounded nothing like my own car or my fiancee's car, I attempted to go back to sleep. For the next five minutes, the alarm kept going off until it either disarmed itself, or the owner finally woke up and disarmed it. I started to think back to the night when my fiancee and I had first moved into our current place. Right around 11pm, a fifth generation Honda Accord with an aftermarket alarm system started going off. After about two to three minutes of continuous blaring, it stopped, only to start again 30 seconds later. This kept happening up until about 8am the following morning when we called the police since we were sick of hearing it. I later overheard the officer questioning the owner of the car, who was completely oblivious to his car alarm. All of this got me wondering: just how effective are car alarms these days?

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As far as I can tell, the basic car alarm is equipped as standard on most cars today. The basic car alarm attempts to thwart potential thieves by drawing attention to itself with a series of auditory and visual annoyances. These measures generally come in the form of repeated horn honking and flashing lights. The idea is that when the alarm is triggered, the noise will either draw enough attention to the situation to stop the thief in their tracks, or hopefully alert the owner of the car that their vehicle is in distress. Over the years though, it seems as if this system has become less and less effective.

Besides the two situations that occurred near my home, I have often gone out to various places to hear car alarms get triggered, only to see people completely ignore them. Admittedly, most of the time a car alarm is triggered, it is a false alarm. I have personally encountered two types of false alarms in my experience. The first type is when someone walks by and accidentally bumps into a car, or accidentally pushes an object (like a shopping cart) into a car. If the impact is great enough, it will trigger the alarm. The second type of false alarm is the result of an overly sensitive car alarm. These are the types of car alarms that will trigger with even the slightest breeze and are most often of the aftermarket variety.  

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With the basic car alarm installed on most new cars today, I feel as if it has become fairly ineffective. In terms of the auditory cues, it is essentially useless since most cars have horns that sound exactly the same or so similar that very few people would be able to distinguish the difference, especially when they are asleep. In fact, most cars in America beep in the key of "F." While the pitch may vary from vehicle to vehicle, the human ear can only hear pitches in certain ranges, which means there are only so many variations a manufacturer can use to make an audible car horn. With so many cars sounding like one another when an alarm is triggered, no one can know for sure whether or not it belongs to their vehicle. If you are anything like me, and you hear a car alarm that sounds suspiciously like yours, you would go check on your car. Of course, it seems most are just too lazy to check if the blaring car alarm belongs to their car.

While car manufacturers have started implementing new systems to prevent automotive theft, these new, mostly electronic systems come with their own complications and a large majority of them have already been cracked. There are other measures you can take to reduce the likelihood of your car being stolen, but, unfortunately, we live in a world where no matter what sort of preventative measures you take, if a thief is motivated enough to steal your vehicle, they will find a way.

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