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Car Alarm Systems

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Car Alarm Systems

Max Bellamy
March 1, 2006

In the United States alone, a car is either stolen or broken into every 20 seconds. It is therefore not surprising that car alarm system manufacturers are constantly finding ways to improve the theft deterrence abilities of their products. But while it’s amazing how car alarm systems have evolved form their simplest beginnings, it’s even more amazing how car thieves still manage to get around them. Are car alarm systems really too simple to provide any protection?

Basic car alarm systems work by using simple circuitry technology – if someone forces the car door open, the circuit is closed and a siren sounds off. More sophisticated car alarms have added more sensors to capture every possible threat by being more sensitive to light vibrations or pressures. Shock sensors cause the alarm to go off when someone or something hits or moves the vehicle. The alarm will go off in patterns dependent on how strong the shock is – the sounds go anywhere from a short beeping sound to a very loud, nonstop alarm. Because shock sensors are very sensitive to any movement in and around the car, it often goes off accidentally; when someone leans on your car while waiting for a cab, for example, or when a huge truck passes by and causes the ground on which your car is parked to vibrate.

Whether they effectively deter thieves or not is subject to debate. Some experts say that shock sensors make car alarms go off unduly, and that this has caused people to become immune to them. Studies show that car alarm sounds have become so ordinary that almost nobody notices them anymore.

Manufacturers of car alarm systems are going full speed on their development of new and more innovative alarms that are more proactive. These alarms have the power to stop a stolen vehicle or send signals by themselves so that the owner and the police can track its location.

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