Every time Gary Schoenfeld's neighbors decide to drive to a nearby convenience store at night, their car stereo virtually throws him out of bed.
"Then, when they come back a few minutes later the noise wakes me up again," he said. "I usually can't get back to sleep, which lowers my performance at work the next day."Schoenfeld, who lives in Kearns, is the victim of a problem health officials said is growing throughout Utah's urban areas. As car stereos become more sophisticated and better capable of blasting bass sounds, residents are getting less sleep and experiencing higher blood pressure.
"Some of these people are spending more for their sound systems than they are for their cars," said Diane Keay, area supervisor of the Salt Lake City-County Health Department's Bureau of Environmental Sanitation and Safety. "These are very high-powered systems, much beyond what would be needed to hear in the car."
The Health Department is considering an ordinance making it illegal to play a car stereo so loud it could be heard more than 50 feet away. Cities nationwide have adopted similar ordinances.
"We didn't seem to have this problem 10 years ago," Keay said. "It has become a fad."
The Board of Health will consider the ordinance at its meeting in August. If board members vote to pass it, the ordinance will be distributed to each city government. It would be valid in all areas of the county, and local police would have authority to enforce it.
If the ordinance becomes law, Keay advises people to jot down the license numbers of offending vehicles. The Health Department will send a warning letter to the car's owners.
"This is not just an irritation," Keay said. "Noise does cause increased blood pressure and heart rate. Your body responds the same whether you like the noise or not. With a loud car stereo, you could be disturbing hundreds of households as you drive down the street."
Loud home stereos or boom boxes already are controlled by ordinances. However, police won't respond to most complaints until after 10 p.m. If the problem persists, health officials will come out with a meter to measure the sound and tell the offenders what level is acceptable.
Schoenfeld would just like to get some sleep, and he would like to be able to enjoy a television show without people trying to impose their music on him. He's tried talking to his neighbors. They usually just turn the volume even higher.
"I'm glad to see people are recognizing that noise pollution is just as damaging as air pollution or any other type of pollution," he said.