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Under bill from Jim Graham, pesky car alarms could lead to towing in D.C.

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Local,DC,Transportation,Eric P. Newcomer,D.C. Council,Jim Graham

D.C. Councilman Jim Graham's new legislation to impound vehicles as a means to combat noisy car alarms has AAA Mid-Atlantic saying it's an unneeded government intrusion.

As the bill stands, if an alarm sounded for five consecutive minutes, a complaint could be made and authorities would write up a warning. Then, according to the bill, the vehicle "shall be removed 8 hours after a warning notice has been conspicuously placed on the vehicle."

"Car alarms are going off for days and weeks, not hours -- literally driving people crazy," the Ward 1 councilman said.

But AAA is laughing him off, calling the legislation silly. Car alarms don't make nonstop noise for that long, the auto club says.

"I was chuckling about the eight-hour rule," said AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend. "That [would be] enough to drive anybody batty."

"We don't know that it's a major problem anywhere -- not in D.C., not in any city," Townsend said about car alarms.

But Elizabeth Shrader, who lives in Mount Pleasant, said she's lived a car alarm nightmare that extended far longer than eight hours.

"It's funny now, but it wasn't funny then," she said over the phone Friday afternoon.

On Wednesday just after 6 in the morning, Shrader typed out an email to her local Advisory Neighborhood Commission representative.

"The car alarm goes off between 3 and 20 times a day, both day and night. This has been going on for a week," she wrote. The noise had driven neighbors to affix angry notes on the car's windows. "All the messages say the same thing: 'Fix your car. Tow your car. Leave this neighborhood,' " she wrote in the email.

The police even checked on the car, but informed Shrader that the vehicle was breaking no laws. One police officer tried to track down the owner and scare him into fixing it, she said.

The Acura, which had a smashed-in front end, looked trashed inside as well. The alarm sounded erratically and intermittently, night and day.

Finally, the complaints made their way to Graham's office.

"I thought it was such a low-level thing, why would a council member care?" she recalled.

Eventually, with Graham's help, Shrader and her husband learned the city could tow an unattended car after 72 hours. After several calls to the police, finally it was gone.

Now, Graham and his staff hope to make it a little bit easier to get a noisy car off the streets.

"People think I'm exaggerating," Graham said about the alarm issue. "I'm not exaggerating."

enewcomer@washingtonexaminer.com

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