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Law changes coming for music played on mini-vans


You’ve had a stressful day at work, and you’re longing to get home to relax. But there’s one more hurdle between you and your bed – the van drive home. As you wait by the crowded bus stop, you can hear your van approaching before you can actually see it. Not because of the sound of its engine, but because of the music blasting from its speakers.{{more}}

If this scenario is one you’re familiar with then keep the faith. Law changes regarding the volume of music played in public transportation are on the horizon!

Speaking to SEARCHLIGHT last Tuesday, head of the Traffic Department ASP Kenneth John said: “The law presently pertaining to this section is being revisited.”

According to ASP John, the law currently states: “No musical instrument shall be played, and no noisy instrument or loud speaker shall be played or operated in any motor vehicle in any public place; except on the written permission of the Commissioner of Police, and subject to any conditions entered therein by him.”

While it’s all well and good having a traffic law that was intended to control music levels emanating from vehicles operated in public, in its present format it is problematic and somewhat difficult to enforce, because it does not identify a level at which anything in excess is unacceptable.

In addition to this, police officers are not equipped with devices that measure volume levels. So, if slapped with a fine or charge, can’t the driver of said vehicle reasonably argue that there is no tangible proof that the volume of the music was too high?

ASP John could not say when exactly public transport users can expect to see these law changes, but he confirmed that the issue is “presently with the persons who are responsible”.

“That’s what we are waiting on now.”

In addition to being annoying to some users of public transport, being exposed to high levels of music on a regular basis can lead to noise-induced hearing loss.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) in the United States, noise-induced hearing loss occurs when sounds damage the sensitive structures in the inner ear – which can occur when exposed to extremely loud sounds for a brief period of time or loud sounds over a longer period.

Research shows that repeated exposure to sounds that measure 85 decibels or above can cause hearing loss. The World Health Organization estimates that the “single biggest cause of preventable hearing loss” is loud music.

To put things into perspective, a motorcycle’s engine gives off sounds of up to 85 decibels; a personal stereo system at high volume is 105 decibels; and a loud musical concert is 110 decibels.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with sounds that measure over 90 decibels, persons should ideally use hearing protection or limit their exposure to said high levels for a few minutes.

How many persons who frequent public transport have the luxury of possessing hearing protection and/or only travel in mini-vans for a few minutes? Very few — quite possibly none.

As the damage from noise exposure is usually gradual, persons are likely to ignore (or not notice) the signs, until the symptoms of permanent hearing loss become evident.

Signs and symptoms

1) Distorted/muffled hearing

2) Difficulty hearing low sounds (eg birds chirping, alarm clocks, telephones etc)

3) Difficulty understanding what is being said during telephone conversations or whilst speaking in groups

4) Pain or ringing in the ears (tinnitus) after exposure to loud sounds.

If you or persons you know often strain to hear certain sounds or regularly ask others to repeat what they have said, you may want to get that checked at a hearing specialist.

President of the National Omnibus Association (NOBA) Anthony ‘Code Red’ Bacchus also welcomed the impending arrival of a law change regarding music levels in public transport.

“Music that’s too loud is a problem. It’s not convenient, it’s not justifiable… Everybody is not the same; not everybody’s ears can take loud music… You can’t answer the phone, you might want to tell the person next to you something… it’s a whole lot of inconveniences,” explained Bacchus to SEARCHLIGHT.

“There should be some kind of control over the music, so it would be accepted – like a decibel meter, where you control the music.”

He further noted that this issue is also addressed in the proposal that was submitted by NOBA to the relevant authorities.

“I’m encouraging members to play their music at a level where the customers are satisfied – where nobody is complaining that the music is too loud. This is what I feel the majority of them [do]. It’s a few vans that play their music excessively loud.”

Bacchus added that rules and regulations are necessary, especially when it comes to services provided to the public.

“Not only does the music need paying attention to, we need to pay attention to courtesy and customer care.”

With the Traffic Department and NOBA seemingly in accordance over the matter, surely this is (under 85 decibel level) music to the public’s ear. (JSV)