Almost one fifth of people find that road traffic noise interferes with their sleep and 53% of people feel irritated, fed up or angry because of road traffic noise according to the RAC Foundation, calling for quieter road surfaces to mark Noise Action Day today.

The comments from the RAC Foundation follow a survey of attitudes to environmental noise. The survey found that road traffic noise was the most commonly reported source of noise in the UK:

  • 84% of people reported hearing road traffic noise.
  • 81% of people reported hearing noise from neighbours and/or people nearby.
  • 71% of people reported hearing noise from aircraft.
  • 36% of people reported hearing noise from trains or railways.

The survey results also show that road traffic noise interferes with:

  • Resting – 15% of respondents.
  • Having Windows / doors open – 19% of respondents.
  • Listening to TV, radio or music – 10% of respondents.
  • Spending time in the garden – 9% of respondents.

Whilst engine technology has improved with car engines 50% quieter than ten years ago, the main noise from the road is produced by the friction between the tyre and the road surface.

The Highways Agency has a target to install quieter road surfaces over 60% of the trunk road network by March 31st 2011. Improved road surfaces can reduce noise by four to eight decibels – the equivalent of more than halving the volume of traffic. The RAC Foundation is today urging government to get on with the backlog in the resurfacing of our roads and is pressing for local authorities to also use new quieter road surfaces on their roads.

The RAC Foundation is also concerned that the introduction of road humps on some inappropriate streets adds to noise pollution. Although, where appropriately positioned, these measures are effective in slowing traffic, their impact in terms of disturbance to residents from vehicle noise and ground vibrations, should be taken into account particularly where humps are planned close to lorry depots.

Edmund King, Executive Director of the RAC Foundation said: “We are fully supportive of the objectives of Noise Action Day, campaigning for a quieter, more tranquil UK. Everybody deserves a decent night’s sleep and yet currently 18% of people have problems sleeping due to road traffic noise.”