"It's unbearable—it's a constant acoustic aggression." That's how one resident of Paris describes the never-ending traffic noise outside his family's apartment, and it's a problem France now hopes to solve with its new "sound radars," reports the New York Times. These sensors, which last week were positioned in seven cities around the nation, including Paris, are designed to detect vehicles—cars, motorcycles, even modified scooters—that are making an extra-loud commotion, then take pictures of them. While there will be no financial repercussions this year, $150 fines will start to be issued in 2023 in Paris to owners of vehicles that exceed noise-level limits.
Reuters notes that this test period for the sensors, which will be placed on structures such as street lampposts, will be used to see if the radars can accurately ID vehicle license plates. A law is already on the books that bans excessive noise—like that of someone revving their motorcycle when stopped for red lights, which one motorcycle rights advocate admits to the Times is like a "noise from hell." This system, however, which will eventually send out automatic fines, makes it easier to document it as it happens. "The problem is that police often have other things to do," the head of Bruitparif, a nonprofit that studies environmental noise, tells Reuters.
This effort to combat noise pollution isn't just because people are annoyed by it. Studies have shown that it can up the risk of health problems, such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular issues. It also has a financial component to it, as there's a loss of productivity when people don't sleep, as well as declining property values along thoroughfares plagued with cacophonous traffic. A recent United Nations report shows the physical and mental fallout from noise pollution in cities is "one of the top emerging environmental threats," per Smart Cities Dive. Noise "is odorless, colorless, and not perhaps easily perceived, like some types of air pollution are," says Rick Neitzel, a professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Michigan. But "we've known noise is bad" for centuries, he adds. (Read more France stories.)