What’s the problem?
Traffic noise is one of the most widespread environmental problems in the European Union. Noise interferes with people’s daily activities at school, at work, at home and during leisure time. It causes sleep disturbance, hearing damage, even cardiovascular disease; and hinders performance at work and children’s learning (1). Studies have revealed that fifty thousand deaths (2) and approaching a quarter of a million cases of cardiovascular disease every year in Europe are linked to traffic noise. For the first time, noise has also been linked to an increased stroke risk: in Denmark, 5% of all stroke cases are caused by traffic noise (3).
In terms of the burden on health, environmental noise is second only to air pollution according to the World Health Organisation. Noise standards for road vehicles have not been updated for 20 years and had little impact on noise levels adjacent to roads. Improved standards are long overdue but the current proposal fails to adequately deliver the health benefits and cost-savings that are possible by reducing noise from vehicles at the source. Proposed amendments by the motor industry would significantly weaken the inadequate proposals of the Commission. With the 6 EU Environment Action Programme and the EU Environmental Noise Directive (4), the European Parliament and the Member States have agreed to reduce noise. A more effective implementation of the vehicle noise standards would provide a significant opportunity to improve the health and quality of life of EU citizens.
What are the benefits of reducing vehicle noise?
Cutting road noise levels by just 3 decibels is equivalent to halving the level of traffic. This change would deliver a major improvement in the health and quality of life of the vast majority of European citizens who live in towns and cities or near major roads. A 3 decibel reduction is quickly and easily achievable through technologies already readily available to Briefing New EU vehicle noise limits car and truck manufacturers. Nearly 1 in 4 of the cars and 1 in 3 of the light trucks tested over the past 5 years already meet the strictest standards proposed by the Commission.
Failing to tackle noise from vehicles at source requires national governments, local authorities and homeowners to install noise barriers or sound insulation to homes and public buildings. Quieter vehicles reduce the need for expensive noise abatement and would increase property values, since homes in noisy areas are less attractive to potential buyers.
What will the new regulation involve?
Noise limit values will ultimately be decreased by 4 dB(A) for passenger cars, vans, buses and coaches and for trucks by 3 dB(A).The Commission points out that despite increasing traffic, noise emissions limits for vehicles have not changed since 1996.
Following the vote, limit values will be decreased in 3 steps and will the full reductions enforced in 10-12 years.
In addition, a new and more representative test method to measure sound emissions will ensure that the sound level of vehicles under street driving conditions does not differ from the type-approval test results.
Finally it is proposed that electric and hybrid electric vehicles be fitted with sound generating devices which would make these cars safer for pedestrians/visually impaired persons-
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