• EU citizens call for quick action to curb traffic noise

    Traffic noise is a serious concern for Europeans, and the EU must act quickly to tackle the issue. That is the call from citizens from several European countries in a video clip published today (1) for International Noise Awareness Day.


    The video, published by Transport & Environment (T&E), the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) urges the European Parliament and member states to support tighter noise emissions standards for all road vehicles.

    It highlights the fact that traffic noise is associated with 50,000 deaths and a quarter of a million cases of heart disease per year.

    In December 2011, the European Commission put forward a proposal to update vehicle noise limits which would require cars and vans to be four-decibels and lorries three decibels quieter five years after the new law is approved. The environment committee of the European Parliament will vote on the new rules in July.

    T&E, the EEB and HEAL want the revised legislation to be adopted faster and to go further in lowering traffic noise levels (2).  According to the environmental and health groups, the Parliament should improve the Commission’s proposal by mandating an extra two-decibel reduction for cars, vans, lorries and buses to come into force by 2020.  These tighter standards would reduce the number of people highly impacted by noise by 40% and the number of sleep-disturbed people by almost a third.  A report for T&E, published earlier this month (3) showed the benefits of ambitious vehicle noise legislation would outweigh the costs by thirty times (4).

    Greg Archer, Programme Manager for Clean Vehicles at Transport & Environment said:

    “The EU has turned a deaf ear to traffic noise for far too long.  Traffic noise levels have been getting worse for fifty years, and vehicle noise standards haven’t been changed for twenty.  The European Parliament has a great opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of millions of Europeans by proposing stricter standards to enter into force as quickly as possible.”

    Louise Duprez, Policy Officer for Air Quality and Noise at the European Environment Bureau said:

    “Traffic noise causes stress and disturbance to people all over Europe; interfering with their sleep, rest and study. EU leaders must grasp this opportunity to directly improve the quality of life of their citizens by cutting noise at the source and making vehicles quieter. They have nothing to lose, apart from their hearing if they don’t take any action.”

    Anne Stauffer, Deputy Director at HEAL said:

    “Noise is not only an irritation, it also affects physical health. Research shows that vehicle noise pushes up the number of people suffering a stroke for the first time. For example, last year a study in Denmark involving over 57,000 people found that for every 10-decibel increase in traffic noise there was a 14% increase in the risk of stroke. Reducing traffic noise is a not-to-be-missed opportunity for health protection.”

    Environmental and health organisations are also calling for a labeling system to enable consumers to have more information on how noisy vehicles are, for test methods that better reflect real world noise emissions and for stricter limits for noise peaks of over 90 decibels.