Car alarms

If your horn sounds when you set your alarm, you are an asshole

It’s happened twice in the last couple of weeks. After parking my car in a busy parking lot, while walking to my destination, someone sets their car alarm at the very moment when I’m walking past their car. Car horns are meant to be loud. Truck horns are even louder. They are meant to be heard above traffic noise. As you might imagine, I nearly jumped out of my skin both times this happened.

It gets worse. No matter where I happen to live, there are always one or two people who live nearby and, arriving home from work in the middle of the night, blithely set their car alarm, generating at least one, and as many as three horn honks. One honk is bad enough in the otherwise dead silent — and mostly sleeping — neighboorhood. I can only imagine that the three honks are just the perpetrator’s desire to make absolutely certain that the alarm is set. Like pressing that lit elevator button repeatedly.

There are a few reasons why someone might inflict this kind of annoyance on innocent and unsuspecting people. First, there’s the old standby: they just don’t give a shit. They may have wondered if the noise might bother people, but they simply don’t care enough to do anything about it.

Second, they may find amusement or even joy in the prospect of bothering people. Don’t kid yourself; people like this exist. On the Internet, they’re called trolls.

But by far the most likely reason is plain ignorance. It seems that people simply don’t realize that they can change their car alarm configuration to disable the honking, and instead use an inaudible cue, such as flashing their car’s lights, to indicate alarm status. Depending on the manufacturer, there may be other options, such as a much quieter beeping sound.

This is a plea, to all owners of vehicles with alarms:

1. Unless there is a specific reason not to, please disable the horn honk when you set or disengage your alarm. Hint: there is no valid reason to leave the horn sound enabled. This Google search should get you started:

2. DO NOT enable your alarm when you are traveling on a ferry. It’s completely pointless, and the motion of the ferry will set off your alarm, repeatedly, over the entire trip. People who are unwilling (or unable) to leave their vehicles during the trip will be serenaded by your idiotic alarm the entire time.

UPDATE 2022Nov01: Like many other people, I’ve noticed that the worst culprits on the ferry are BMWs and Audis — basically, high-end vehicles. These things have “advanced” alarms that respond to movement inside the car and when the car is tilted to the side. And of course their alarms are incredibly, ear-splittingly loud. According to this article, many drivers simply don’t know how to disable these features. Terrific.

3. Consider disabling your alarm completely. Studies have shown that they are utterly ineffective anyway.

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A rant about car alarms

Ah, car alarms. Useless for deterring car theft, they do however provide wonderful new ways to annoy people. I was recently – and unavoidably – on a BC Ferry from Vancouver to Victoria and as usual decided not to do battle with the surging crowds of tourists on the passenger decks, preferring instead to stay in my car and read or nap. But as usual the relative peace of the car deck was shattered by car alarms going off every few minutes. There are only four possible reasons for this to occur: first, the car owner may not have realized that ferries move around a lot and will almost always set off their alarm. Hard to believe someone could be that stupid, but no, on second thought, it isn’t. Second, they may have enabled the alarm automatically, without thinking at all, as we do with so many of the repeated tasks in our lives. This is actually almost forgivable, if not for… Third, they don’t realize that their alarm probably has a silent alert option. Fourth, they know damn well it will go off, but don’t care, because they are a jerk.

After enduring this symphony of idiocy for a few minutes, I gave up and started making my way to the upper decks. On my way, I encountered a BC Ferries employee and made a joking reference to idiots and their car alarms. I should point out that I had often wondered why there are no signs on ferries telling people to disable their alarms. Anyway, he admitted that there is a strict BC Ferries policy against telling people not to enable their car alarms. That’s right, staff are not allowed to tell these idiots to stop being so incredibly annoying. Apparently their crack legal staff decided that BC Ferries might be liable if someone with a disabled car alarm had their car stolen on a ferry. Scratch that: where would the thief go with the car? So it must be that BC Ferries doesn’t want to be liable for theft of items from within cars with disabled alarms. And hey, they may be right. Still, I very much doubt a small-time crook would pay $60 for the privilege of working a two hour ferry ride, running around as fast as he can, cracking open cars, avoiding numerous travelers and staff, then dragging his loot back to his car and stuffing it in his trunk. And of course, unless he pays another $60 to wait in line for a couple more hours and ride again, he’ll be in the wrong town. Sorry, I just don’t buy it. Sure, corporate lawyers have to come up with something to make themselves appear useful, but is this the best they can do?

Years ago I lived in Toronto in an apartment building. My windows faced away from the major streets, so it was relatively quiet at night. Except for the idiot who came home from the night shift every night and – at 4am – enabled his car alarm with that loud, oh-so-familiar squawking sound, thereby waking up hundreds of people in the vicinity – including me of course. What this idiot failed to realize is that most car alarms can be enabled silently. Or possibly he knew damn well that this was possible but was just a huge asshat. Or he knew, but was sure everyone who heard it was actually impressed with his toy and secretly jealous of it. None of these options speaks well for this turd.

Now, a quick survey: when was the last time you heard a car alarm and did anything besides a) ignore it or b) groan and cover your head with your pillow? Never, right? What does this say about the efficacy of car alarms? I mean for the purposes of dealing with car-related theft, not for annoying people. So why are people still using the wretched things?

Now, for those interested (and for those of you for whom much of this is news), here are some links to car alarm information that may help you avoid being beaten to death after you smarmily enable your car alarm in the middle of the night – for the last time:
Steering you right: Car alarms
Wikipedia: car alarms
Alarmingly Useless: The Case for Banning Car Alarms in New York City

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