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|Year : 2005 | Volume
| Issue : 26 | Page : 59--70
"Could we all be a little more quiet, please?" A behavioural-science commentary on research for a quieter Europe in 20201
University of Groningen, Netherlands
Department of Psychology, Grote Kruisstraat, 2/I, 9712 TS Groningen
European noise research and policy-making ~ overall not so effective thus far ~ is considered from a behavioral science perspective. First, an overview is given of a recent strategy paper by the EU's CALM network 1 , focused on perception-related and emission-related research. After a summary of noise effects on human well-being, environmental noise problems are discussed as socio-technical problems where the social part is just as important as the technical part. The behavioral and social components of noise emission, transmission, exposure and effect are explicated. Environmental stress is considered as a double-sided phenomenon involving subjects' threat appraisal and their coping appraisal, each comprising specific underlying variables. From the wider perspective explained, several comments are given on the research strategy CALM is proposing. It is argued that: increasing motorization undermines noise abatement; dose-response relationships reflect only part of the problem; more attention is needed for the causative behavior of noisy actors; technical noise-reduction measures are necessary but insufficient; and that noise as a daily stressor should be treated in the context of people's overall quality of life. Specific suggestions are listed for EU noise research and policy-making. One conclusion is that more effective and visionary European noise policies may well be started tomorrow and need not depend on 15 years more research as envisaged in the CALM strategy paper.
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Vlek C. "Could we all be a little more quiet, please?" A behavioural-science commentary on research for a quieter Europe in 20201.Noise Health 2005;7:59-70
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Vlek C. "Could we all be a little more quiet, please?" A behavioural-science commentary on research for a quieter Europe in 20201. Noise Health [serial online] 2005 [cited 2022 Aug 15 ];7:59-70
Available from: https://www.noiseandhealth.org/text.asp?2005/7/26/59/31638
Introduction: the CALM strategy
Since October 2001, a European network called CALM has been identifying basic problems, issues and possibilities for future research about environmental noise. The latter is circumscribed as exceeding acceptable sound levels or providing no benefit to exposed persons. So we are dealing with unwanted, disturbing and involuntary exposure to an environmental stressor. The proposed EU vision for the year 2020 is : "to avoid harmful effects of noise exposure from all sources and preserve quiet areas." Two starting points for this long-term aspiration are the time-honored EU-legislation on maximum noise levels of various sources (transport vehicles, outdoor equipment) and the European Noise Directive (END) published in 2002, which obliges local authorities to produce environmental noise maps, identify situations of unacceptably high noise and undertake noise control actions to protect or restore the overall quality of living environments.
The CALM research strategy (October 2004) is aimed at facilitating the national implementation of the END on the one hand, and at supporting the further development of European noise policy on the other. The latter goal is unfolded into perception-related and emission-related research. [Table 1] summarizes the focal points of the proposed research agenda.
As the right-hand side of [Table 1] shows, the noise emission domains of the CALM strategy are road, rail and air transport and the use of various outdoor equipment. Note that emission (i.e. source) control is given detailed attention, while transmission, exposure and effects are less clearly unfolded. Also, in the CALM strategy paper so far no research priorities are indicated, so that one may conclude that a systematic research program is pending. "The outcome of future research (..) will substantially support a sustainable development towards a quieter Europe" (CALM strategy paper p. 33; see footnote 1).
In the remainder of this paper the environmental noise problematic is considered from a behavioral-science perspective. The usefulness of a transactional model of environmental threat and-coping is discussed. A number of behavioral-science comments about the CALM strategy paper are elaborated, and specific suggestions are given about near-future EU noise policies and research. For a starting position, let us briefly consider the main effects of being exposed to noise.
Main effects of noise on human well-being
The observed negative effects of noise are diverse. They depend on the physical characteristics of the sound and the (perceived) meaning of the noise source, as well as on the subject's personal characteristics and circumstances, as argued further below. Long term health effects such as hypertension and ischemic heart disease may directly result from regular exposure to high noise (> 70 dB(A)), or indirectly, at moderate noise levels (> 40 dB(A)), from regular 'annoying' disturbances of daily activities, sleep and social interaction. Most directly, hearing loss may occur through frequent exposure to loud noise (> 70 dB(A)), e.g. in particular occupations.
The direct and indirect pathways from noise exposure to long-term health effects may be traced via physiological stress indicators and biological risk factors, which, of course, also depend on the subject's physical constitution and his/her current condition. See Passchier-Vermeer and Passchier (2000) and Babisch (2002) for reviews. In their epidemiological study across eight cities for WHO-Europe, Niemann and Maschke (2004) conclude that the enhanced health risks of 'strongly annoying' traffic and neighbourhood noise are expressed in the cardiovascular, the (especially children's) respiratory, and the musculoskeletal system as well as in psychic disturbances (especially depression). Noise-induced sleep disturbance is only one intermediate factor here.
About 25 years ago, Cohen and Weinstein (1981) already documented the notion that the psychological characteristics of a noisy situation, particularly the noise's meaning and its predictability and controllability, are crucial for understanding the non-auditory effects of noise. Also, following these authors (p. 61):
"Noise that is perceived as disruptive of an important goal, unnecessary, representative of something that is feared or loathed and is produced without concern for the respondent is more likely to elicit stress-related responses than noise without these characteristics."
After an extensive meta-analysis, Miedema and Vos (1998) conclude that, on the average, the same noise level is reported to be more annoying when produced by an airplane than by road traffic, while railway noise (same level) is found to be least annoying. Apparently, the significance of interpretive factors in noise annoyance should not be underestimated; see also Guski (1999) and Miedema and Vos (1999).
Behavioral science and environmental problems
From a technological point of view, noise is too much and/or unwanted sound whose intensity may be reduced via changes in the production of sound. The right-hand side of [Table 1] illustrates various source-related issues involved. Noise management policies are thought to be well based on relatively straightforward research aimed at describing dose-effect relationships. From a behavioral-science perspective, however, a wider set of questions may be asked, hypotheses tested and explanations advanced about human responses to environmental stressors, about the behavioral causation of stress and about practical stress management.
A behavioral-science perspective on noise activities and their effects encompasses relevant (applicable) parts of psychology, economics, sociology and cultural anthropology. For example, psychology provides insights in the behavioral role of people's perceptions, motives and habits; sociology may inform us about developments in social behavior and the role of social norms and values. Economics offers views about consumer choice behavior and 'rational' utility maximization (or deviations thereof). Cultural anthropology identifies and explains typical differences in local customs, beliefs and values between countries, regions or subpopulations.
A useful approach to an environmental noise problem is to first conduct a diagnostic analysis: what is the problem, how serious are the effects, is it a single- or a multiple-stressor situation, which groups or parties are involved, who and what is causing the problem, what are the groups' relevant attitudes and behavioral possibilities, which deeper factors (e.g. socioeconomic conditions) are playing a significant role? Subsequently, one may derive possible solutions to the problem, some of which may follow directly from diagnostic analysis, and one may design and/or select effective actions or strategies to reduce the problem or eliminate it entirely. Systematic modelling and theory formation may help to come to grips with the problem situation, so that one can describe it efficiently, explain what happens and predict the outcomes of either doing nothing or choosing a possible solution.
Environmental noise and behavioral research
So far, among noise researchers and policy makers, 'perception' is used as a key-word when it comes to behavioral science work. Emitted noise (unwanted, non-beneficial sound) is supposedly perceived by the respondent as more or less disturbing, annoying or health- threatening. In view of this it is considered important to determine so-called dose-response relationships answering the question: which response intensity is generally observed at a given dose emission? This necessitates the use of clear concepts and methods for determining: (a) the noise dose, (b) the noise response, and (c) the relationship between them (and just them, uncontaminated by other factors); see Miedema and Vos (1998) for important results. Knowing the noise dose-response relationship enables policy-makers to set standards for acceptable noise levels, e.g. around airports, busy road junctions, construction sites and noisy sports clubs.
One big problem here is that, except in the experimental laboratory, the noise dose as well as the noise response are not simple and do not exist in isolation, but they occur in a context of various other factors. For example, a specific noise may vary in loudness as well as frequency and regularity, and it may be embedded in various background sounds that may either mask it or strengthen it. On the other hand, a specific noise response (e.g. annoyance rating) may reflect various kinds of disturbance and it may be co-determined by other factors such as polluted air, bad weather and/or fear of accidents. By consequence, it should not surprise us that the dose-response relationship for specific noise situations hardly every gets higher than may be expressed in a correlation measure of 0.40, which leaves the larger part of total variance to be explained via other, so-called non-acoustical factors.
Another problem is the setting of acceptance standards. These in fact reflect 'frozen' decisions of a repetitive nature (as in routinely evaluating job applicants), and based on a weighing of the material and nonmaterial costs and benefits of sound production, exposure, mitigation and 'living with it'. Due to the great variation in real world circumstances, valid noise acceptance standards cannot be very general but need to be differentiated following major acceptance variables such as the necessity of the noisy activity, the costs of noise reduction, the self protection capacity of exposed persons, and other situational costs and benefits. In setting noise-acceptance standards, achieving environmental justice is a real challenge for policy-makers. Moreover, noise-exposure standards are practically meaningless without regular monitoring of, and enforcement in the relevant situations. Standards should be occasionally revised, too, depending on changes in the variables (costs, benefits) on which they are based.
Environmental noise problems are socio-technical problems
Environmental noise management may significantly improve when noise problems are seen as socio-technical problems where the social and behavioral part is just as important as the technical and the physical part. Following a simple four-stage model covering emission, transmission, exposure and effect, practical noise management may be emission-related and/or transmission-related and/or exposure-related and/or effect-related. What would be the behavioral component in each of these four stages?
Firstly, for emission at the noise source we may identify the nature and purpose of the relevant activity, its responsible actor(s), actors' own perception of the sound produced and their feelings of accountability, actors' awareness of others' noise-exposure, and actors' perceived options for reducing the noise produced or choosing an alternative, less noisy activity.
Secondly, as regards transmission, different involved groups may have different experiences and perceptions of the pros and cons of relevant transmission factors such as covers, windows, screens or greenery, or the noise-masking by other sounds (e.g. music). Persons responsible for different transmission factors may have more or less strict attitudes towards the protection of exposed persons, and they may have specific beliefs and preferences about transmission mediating options.
Thirdly, exposure pertains to groups of persons differing in socio-economic and demographic characteristics. In conjunction with this, groups may also differ in their vulnerability to noise, due to, e.g., their prevalent activities. Precise exposure is not easily determined. The simplest exposure is a matter of direct reception of the emitted sound. But, of course, exposure may be mediated by immediate protective measures (earplugs, closing of windows) and thus it sometimes is hard to determine who is actually exposed to which kind of sound and sound level. Exposure measured 'at the ears' obviously is the best way of exposure assessment, but 'the ears' may not often be reached easily enough. And capability of self-protection (cf. disabled, sick or aged people) is highly relevant in the measurement of actual exposure.
Fourthly, as summarized above, the effects of noise on human well-being may comprise various kinds of disturbance (e.g. interruptions of sleeping, reading, social conversation), varied health effects (e.g. fatigue, arousal, hypertension) and self-reported annoyance based on actual and/or expected disturbances and/or health effects. Annoyance responses may include the perceived meaning of the noise source ('is this necessary, does it signify danger, could it be controlled?') as well as respondents' attribution of responsibility for the noise produced ('who is doing this, on whose authority, under which regulation - if any?'). However, given the multifaceted nature of noise effects, it is questionable whether self-reported annoyance is sufficiently reflective of what regular noise exposure actually does to people's quality of life. [Table 2] summarizes the behavioral components of noise emission, transmission, exposure and effect.
The message of [Table 2], as already alluded to, is that next to various technical issues (cf. [Table 1]), many social and behavioral questions, explanations and recommendations are important for effective, more encompassing policy-making about environmental noise management.
Transactional model of stress
Many pertinent questions about the perception of environmental noise ('is this somehow threatening or not?') and people's response to it ('can I handle this or not?') may be derived from a so-called transactional model of stress, as represented in [Figure 1] (adapted from Gardner and Stern 1996/2002; originally: Rogers, 1983; see also Rippetoe and Rogers, 1987). The basic idea of this protection-motivation theory is that environmental stress is a double-sided phenomenon; it has a stimulus side and a response side, both of which are essential for explaining subjects' behavioral strategy.
Following the model of [Figure 1], responding to environmental noise depends on the degree to which the noise is seen as threatening (normal life) as well as the degree to which the exposed person is perceiving the situation as controllable. On the one hand (Figure's left side), whether the noise is seen as threatening depends on its severity and the person's vulnerability to it, but also on the associated personal benefits, the noise of beneficial activities being seen as less threatening (e.g., the noise of your own lawn mower is perceived as much less annoying - even if it's louder - than that of your neighbor's). On the other hand (right side), whether the noise situation is perceived as being controllable depends on the degree to which anything could be done about it, the extent to which the exposed person him-/herself could act effectively and what the costs and barriers for personal action are (e.g., your own lawn-mowing is perfectly controllable which makes it far less stressful than your neighbor's). Combined, the person's coping appraisal (right side) should at least balance his/her threat appraisal (left side) if the behavioral strategy (lower block) is to be problem-oriented ('we'll do something about it') rather than emotion-oriented ('we'll have to live with it').
The model of [Figure 1] offers a set of pertinent variables for describing and explaining environmental noise situations and for deriving recommendations for self-protection and collective policy-making, part of which may be technology-oriented. Variants of the [Figure 1] model have been used by other researchers, e.g. Van Kamp (1990), Lercher (1996) and Stallen considered as worthy of noise protection.
Diagnosing the noise-maker
Environmental noise is a by-product of human activity. Therefore, making noise should receive just as much policy attention as being exposed to it. Noise-makers have values, goals and expectations, they have decision options and behavioral preferences, and they experience the actual benefits and costs of noisy activities. Following a rather simple model, human economic behavior may be seen as resting upon the performer's needs, opportunities and abilities. [Figure 2] (from Vlek 2000) shows a Needs-Opportunities-Abilities or NOA model of economic behavior which is applicable to noisy activities as well.
For example, one noise-making need (e.g. of sports car owners) may be status-seeking through social distinction. An opportunity to make noise may be the attractive shop offer of a chain saw for garden maintenance. An ability to make noise may be expressed in your newly obtained motorcycling license. Together, various needs, opportunities and abilities for noisemaking have been steadily increased, for example, by the re-birth of the motor scooter some 15 years ago, the introduction of trauma helicopters in urban areas, the prescription of mechanized platforms for outdoor cleaning and painting, and by the marketing of a range of do-it-yourself apparatus which everyone is free to buy and use around the house. Human needs, (1999) on noise annoyance, Cavalini (1991) on odour annoyance, and Rippetoe and Rogers (1987) on personal health protection.
Lercher (1996, [Figure 5] has recommended a more compact version of the model, with the following conclusion (p. 126):
"Non-auditory health effects research must develop instruments that are capable of measuring what environmental noise really means to the people exposed in their specific social, psychological and environmental context. A transactional model of stress, appraisal and coping together with a contextual research strategy provides a useful conceptual framework to guide current and future research designs and analysis."
In Stallen's (1999) version of the model, aimed at understanding airport noise annoyance, a distinction is made between perceived disturbance and perceived control, annoyance being the major expression of the resulting stress experienced. Stallen, too, emphasizes that perceived control is an essential half of the story. In his view, predictability of (airport) noise, accessibility of relevant information, trust in noise managers, freedom regarding exposure, and having a say in the choice of management strategies all significantly reduce subjects' stress and annoyance.
Note that one implication of the [Figure 1] model is that people's vulnerability to environmental noise and their coping potential naturally vary as a function of time of day. Particularly the 'vulnerable' daily periods reserved for learning, recreation, resting and sleeping should be opportunities and abilities may well be influenced systematically so as to change the behavior of noise-makers in various domains.
The NOA model of [Figure 2] may also be used to appreciate the situation of exposed persons. Many people nowadays simply need to live (or work, recreate) in a quieter environment but lack the opportunity and the ability to do so. Thus, needs, opportunities and abilities are three fronts for diagnostic analysis followed by policy making: 'could we moderate or substitute certain needs; which opportunities are lacking or might be developed; which abilities might be modified or enhanced?'
Comments on CALM's European noise research strategy
When the behavioral-science perspective sketched above is kept in mind while reading the CALM research strategy paper (footnote 1), the following comments arise.
Increasing motorisation undermines noise abatement
"Although noise emission limits have become increasingly stringent over the years, no corresponding reduction in noise immission in noise sensitive areas has been observed" (CALM strategy paper p. 16). This alarming observation, paralleled by Passchier-Vermeer and Passchier 2000), is typical for other environmental stressors as well, e.g. waste production, air pollution or space use. It reflects the well-known phenomenon of volume growth, often strengthened by 'rebound': the intensification of environmentally impactful behavior after the impact per product or time unit has significantly decreased. For example, cleaner cars and energy saving light bulbs tend to be used more generously. The lesson is that even if you make vehicles and outdoor equipment less noisy per piece, then through increasing motorization and more intense use, absolute environmental noise levels are unlikely to go down. Thus, long-term noise policy would seem to require rather fundamental system changes, in transport, building construction, recreational activities, and other major noise-producing domains. Obviously, system changes also require, and bring along, fundamental attitude changes of producers, consumers and system managers: "less noise means greater environmental quality".
Dose-response relationships reflect only part of the problem
Part of the long-term annoyance, stress and health effects of regular high noise levels may be efficaciously limited through controlling the noise emitted at the relevant source. For reducing disturbance and well-being at lower noise levels (upward from 40 dB(A), say), however, this view is too simple. Here, effective noise management policies should take account of: (a) a four-stage model of the noise-response relationship ~ involving emission, transmission, exposure and effect (cf. [Table 2]), and (b) a double-sided or transactional model of coping with stress ~ implying several policy targets at both the 'threat' side and the 'coping' side of the problem, as perceived by the subject; see [Figure 1] above.
Even if one would find this conceptualization too complicated (because it may eventually involve detailed and differentiated environmental noise policies), then one still faces the difficulties inherent in assessing the 'simple' dose-effect relationships: how to define and measure the 'dose', how to define and measure the 'response', and how to establish the causality of the relationship between dose and response. In view of the dynamic variety of relevant factors and co-determinants, we may fear that establishing typical dose-response relationships of sufficient validity unfortunately is an illusion. To the extent this is true, setting noise acceptance standards also is illusory in its pretension to adequately protect the well-being of exposed persons from 'unacceptably' high noise levels. The ambition to chart dose-response relationships and set standards may well be needless, too, as there is plenty of evidence about what to do, practically, to significantly prevent or reduce disturbing effects of environmental noise, despite our apparent inability to set and enforce precise standards.
More attention for the behavior of noisy actors is desirable
The EU noise strategy so far seems to start from a general acceptance that environmental noise is there, and that it will develop more or less autonomously as the economy grows and society evolves. This, however, closes down a policy avenue which may be highly effective. Analyzing the behavioral purposes of noisy actors, their choice of vehicles or equipment, their perception of and their attitude towards self-produced noise, the reasons for 'behaving so noisily', their awareness of the impacts of noise on the people exposed, the possibilities and (possibly negative) preferences for a less noisy activity, all this would yield a variety of targets for policy-making. The latter would be aimed at the behavioral sources, causes and mechanisms of environmental noise-making rather than on the control of noise transmission, exposure and effects ~ which evidently is and should provide another set of policy targets.
Technical noise-reducing measures are necessary but insufficient Modern human behavior is replete with the use of technical products and means for house-holding, transport, education, recreation and communication. Many behaviors are strongly co-determined by the technical means and equipment available. Often the way we (have to) behave is dependent on entire technical systems having corresponding physical infrastructures. Thus, many environmental problems also are almost 'baked into' the technology used and the physical infrastructure on which it is based.
Noise is one such 'baked-in' environmental effect. Reducing noise production at source requires greater or lesser changes in technical means and physical infrastructures. However, users may:
have trouble seeing the need for this,have difficulties understanding the changes,not get familiar with their proper use soon enough,find adoption of the technical or physical changes too costly or behaviorally unattractive,(therefore) not easily accept the changes.
Moreover, actual acceptance and initial use of environmentally less harmful technology and/or infrastructure may induce 'rebound' behavior patterns (see above), i.e. people may manifest improper use or over-use of the new (quieter) way of doing things so that the net (aggregate) environmental impact of the relevant kind of activity stays the same or even increases.
Thus, a timely behavioral-science analysis of intended changes in technology and in physical infrastructures is essential for knowing in advance what the new technology and/or infrastructure is likely to 'do' to the people meant to use it, how they will (initially) perceive it, whether they will accept it, which behaviors it will actually provoke, and how unintended side effects could best be avoided or redressed.
Knowing all this would substantially facilitate the process of effectively introducing new technology and/or infrastructure aimed at improving environmental sustainability.
Of course, there is plenty of room for finding out in detail which technical changes: in vehicle engines, car tyres, road surfaces, railway tracks, train braking systems, aircraft propulsion and streamlining, and a variety of outdoor equipment, would actually lead to a reduction of noise at source ~ of new as well as older specimen. Such research, however, would still leave open a diversity of questions about the behavioral feasibility, the environmental effectiveness and the social acceptability of the technical changes proposed. Well-motivated collaboration between technical and behavioral scientists seems desirable here.
Noise responses occur in the context of 'quality of life'
It is understandable that noise researchers are primarily interested in people's direct ('annoyance') responses to immediate specific noise sources. Establishing this is difficult enough in itself; see comment 2 above on dose response relationships. Recently, however, the concepts of 'quality of life' and 'quality of the living environment' are being considered as fitting well into the larger societal concept of sustainable development. Along these lines, environmental noise may be seen as (just) one aspect of someone's living environment and as a more or less important aspect of someone's long term quality of life (see, e.g., Amerigo and Aragones, 1997; Vlek, Skolnik and Gatersleben, 1998; Bonaiuto, Aielllo et al. 1999). Babisch (2002) proposes that more research attention be given to the combined effects of different stressors: are the effects additive, multiplicative or synergistic?
Obviously, there also are other environmental stressors and quality variables, and one question is how 'noise' would compare to these, what its relative importance would be and how it eventually weighs up against other important variables. In this line of reasoning one would expect policy makers to focus on the overall quality of people's living environment at home, at work, during recreation et cetera. Noise researchers (e.g. Van Kamp et al. 2003) are beginning to consider such a wider environmental-quality framework, but there is much to do to eventually obtain a useful policy basis for dealing with multiple-stressor situations and for advancing the multidimensional quality of living environments.
Conclusion and suggestions
The CALM network's 'Noise research strategies for a quieter Europe' (see footnote 1) potentially makes a substantial contribution to European long-term noise policies. For an environmental psychologist it is instructive to read about the many ways in which a great variety of sources deliver noise, and how its nature and intensity might be controlled. At the same time, however, it is surprising to notice the dominance of a technological viewpoint, accompanied by a rather modest and conceptually simple perspective on noise-making actors, noise 'perception' and dose-effect assessment. A behavioral science approach to environmental noise problems would consider the entire 'transaction' between the noise emitter and the receiver, as comprising emission, transmission, exposure and effect. This makes it easy to identify relevant actors, their behavioral motives and processes, their perceptions and preferences, the degree of disturbance experienced, the opportunities for noise reduction, and people's willingness to either accept the noise or cooperate in reducing it (cf. [Table 2]). Public acceptance of noise policies and noise situations depends in part, of course, on the relevant (technically measured) sound levels. But it also depends strongly on the exposed persons' noise appraisal and their coping potential (cf. [Figure 1], on other stressors and/or quality variables in their daily environment, on their lenience towards noisy actors, and on their confidence in source managers having to keep noise levels acceptably low.
Considering policy effectiveness in actual stress reduction, it seems desirable that EU noise research and policy-making follow a more integrative, multidisciplinary approach. Some specific suggestions are:
Pay more attention to the actual behaviors and behavior determinants of noise-makers (drivers, pilots, neighbors, companies, sports clubs); design policies which actually enable them to change noisy activities, to reduce noise production and to respect the living space of exposed persons. This is especially relevant for the varied domain of outdoor equipment.Be aware of volume growth in noisy (motorized) activities and be prepared to investigate 'rebound' (see further above) and to design more fundamental, i.e. system-oriented policies.Focusing on physical health effects is by far not enough, as noise may be widely disturbing human activity patterns, while chronic annoyance at relatively low noise levels may gradually lead to long-term reductions in health.Do not wait for ultimate dose-effect relationships to emerge, but study noise exposure and its effects more broadly and design multi-faceted policies to reduce disturbance and increase people's quality of life. Addressing the root causes of noise may also lead to reductions in other kinds of environmental impact such as air pollution and safety risks.Study and try to optimize the transactional relationship between noise-makers and exposed persons. Information, justification, communication, compensation, participation and empowerment are useful ingredients of interactions that could lead to less noise, less annoyance and greater acceptance of inevitable noise sources.'Not by technology alone': don't focus exclusively on the technical characteristics of noise-making vehicles, equipment and apparatus. Technical improvements are necessary, of course, but various social and behavioral problems will have to be solved before technical changes are actually implemented. And there may always be unintended abuses and side-effects of noise saving technologies. Effective noise policies must be based on technical, legal and behavioral principles. This requires multidisciplinary collaboration.Widespread implementation of the European Noise Directive (2002), involving the production of local noise maps, identification of unacceptable noise situations and undertaking noise control actions, may end up in a hopelessly ineffective bureaucracy, unless local authorities get help as well as incentives to set up their own noise assessment and management structure based on sufficient expertise, methods and practical instruments.Start more effective and visionary EU noise policies tomorrow, not in 2020. Fifteen years more research will not yield the certainties one would like to have, while there is already much to do now, if the political will can be mobilized. Embarking on a multi-annual research program can go along with a strengthening and broadening of actual EU noise policies.
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