The ironic truth of car alarms

Car alarms are useless. If the statistics from the 90’s still hold, roughly 95-99% of car alarms that go off, are false alarm. And think about it: how many time have you actually called the police whenever you heard an alarm go off?

…Right. Probably never. And physically confronting an active car jacker might not be the best solution either. (God knows what kind of trouble this guy is up to!) If anything, car alarms mostly bring us unpleasant, loud noises at 3am night when a guy accidentally bumps into a car, or sits on its trunk.

Therefore, one could argue that car alarms are rendered useless in our time of living. Most probably, they go off because of a non-crime related reason, and when they actually go off for a crime that is committed, hardly anyone calls the police (or takes other action).

Mexican police sirens

Police in Mexico is a special breed. There is no need (or time) to go into its corrupt force and extensive bribery system, but they’re special for another reason: their use of sirens.

In Europe, sirens are only used when is an actual emergency that needs attendance. In Mexico however, more often than not, police sirens and flashing lights are turned on without any apparent reason: they might be on a normal patrolling job in a local area, or stand still along the road, while enjoying a up of coffee, or use their sirens just to skip a red light (I kid you not). Kind of reminds me of that awesome Superbad movie part, in which two very non-professional cops ‘create their own fun’ on the job.

(Note: I’m taking Mexico as an example here because we are based there, this is not exclusively a Mexican issue.)

The problem with this, is that people are not getting out of the way anymore, whenever they hear a police car approaching behind them. They assume it’s not a ‘real emergency’ and therefore just stay where they are. The police car often just stays behind the rest of the cars, waiting until they can make a turn or overtake (while having their sirens on full blast). As a result, the police often arrives late to actual emergencies.

By the way: Not getting out of the way for the police or ambulance, is actually illegal in many parts of the world – highlighting the importance of its function.

Car alarms and Mexican Police

So I hope you see the relationship between car alarms and the police force: both are using their ‘alarm function’ too often, and in non-appropriate ways, and as result lose the actual purpose they were designed for (getting people’s attention to evoke an action – e.g. calling the police, or getting out of the way for an emergency vehicle).

The take away: when a product or service has a function, purpose or goal, be sure to use it for that cause only and avoid creating an abundance of it, or customers will ignore you completely (we didn’t even go into spam email in this article, which might be another great digital example of this phenomenon).