How alarming - 83% of Brits suffer from 'alarm apathy'

Article date: 19 April 2011

Brits are suffering from ‘alarm apathy’ and have become resistant to the sound of car alarms, according to a social experiment* conducted in four major cities by the UK’s largest insurer.

And with a bumper batch of bank holidays approaching Aviva is warning motorists to take extra care of their cars as statistics show there is traditionally a 10% spike in car crime over the Easter and Spring breaks **.

Results from the insurer’s social experiment, released today, revealed that over 80% of people totally fail to register the sound of a car alarm. Moreover, out of 100 passers-by, not ONE person took any action when walking past a car with its alarm going off.

The Aviva study involved setting off a car alarm in central areas of London, Cardiff, Glasgow and Manchester, and monitoring the response of pedestrians. It revealed:

  • 83% of people failed to register any reaction whatsoever when walking past a car with its alarm sounding
  • The 17% who acknowledged the alarm did nothing more than briefly glance at the car as they walked past
  • People from Cardiff proved the most responsive to car alarms, with 25% of passers-by acknowledging the alarm going off - Glaswegians were the least responsive (9%)
  • Mancunians are the second most likely to respond to a car alarm going off with 15% acknowledging the car as they passed, followed by Londoners at 12%

Martin Smith, motor claims manager at Aviva, said: “Alarms obviously offer a straightforward method for protecting a car and it’s important that, where possible, cars are fitted with them, but it’s clear from our research that they have become like urban white noise - as commonplace as dogs barking, sirens and everyday traffic.

“Our data shows that theft of and from cars goes up over the Spring break and with an additional bank holiday this year we would urge motorists to adopt other common sense security measures to help them from falling victim to car thieves. So if you’re off to the seaside or on a day out makes sure you hide all your belongings out of sight and choose your parking spot wisely!”

The UK Neighbourhood Watch Trust says they are not surprised at the findings.  Chairman of the Trust, Roy Rudham, added: “What Aviva has highlighted in its experiment is that if you own a car and someone tries to break into it you cannot always rely on members of the British public to respond to your car alarm, despite the ongoing efforts of Neighbourhood Watch and the close communities we live in.

“It is essential, especially around this time of year as car crime starts to rise over the bank holidays, that people take extra precautions to secure their car.  Ideally motorists should avoid keeping valuables in their car, but if that’s not possible, they should hide possessions out of sight and consider investing in a wheel lock.”

Protecting your car and possessions – top tips from Aviva

As the weather improves and the UK enjoys the first long weekends of the year, people who are out and about can often become targets for the light-fingered brigade.

  • Guard against theft of valuables from your car at beaches, parks and picnic spots by hiding any temptations for thieves in the boot or, better still, invest in an in-car safe for your valuables.
  • As the UK travels to the seaside to enjoy the sun, neighbourhoods can become quieter, providing opportunities for thieves. If you’re out and about, without your car, make sure your car keys are well-hidden at home, as most home-based car thefts result from the keys being stolen from the house.
  • Choose your parking spot wisely - think of parking in well-lit places, or about using car parks with security guards and CCTV cameras
  • It sounds obvious but remember to lock your vehicle and NOT leave the key in or on it
  • It's easy for a thief to reach your Sat Nav if they've smashed the side window of your car. Sat Nav systems often contain personal data which could lead the thief straight to your home, so keep them out of sight when not in use.
  • Make a list of all your valuables, work out how much they're worth and check you've got enough insurance to cover their full value.

Alarming views - vox pops from the four cities

  • "I just don't bother; they are a bit of a nuisance really. I don't check them out at all." – Karl  Dowson, Cardiff
  • “I suppose I’d look at the car to see if there are signs of it being broken into, but most of them are going off for no reason so I just walk by.” – Bernard Leahy, Manchester
  • “You’re used to hearing them. If it’s somewhere you can see, you’ll have a look but you won’t go out of your way to go and check it.” – Darren Townsend, Manchester.

For further information on direct insurance from Aviva please go to

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If you are a journalist and would like further information, please contact

Liz Kennett: Aviva Press Office: +44 (0) 7800 699667:

Sarah Jane Spooner : Aviva Press Office : 020 7395 7002 : 07834 310 589 : sarahjane.spooner@fleishmaneurope,com

Notes to editors:

*About the experiment: The experiment took place over the week commencing 14th March 2011. An average-priced family car was parked on a suburban street in a chosen district of each city – London, Cardiff, Glasgow and Manchester. The street was chosen for having neither a particularly high or low crime rate within an average residential suburb of the city.

The alarm was then set off every 8 minutes for an hour as locals walked past. Aviva monitored 115 people’s reactions (an average of 29 per city) based on the following three criteria:

  • Ignored: the passer-by walked straight past the car with no reaction or indication of having registered the alarm going off
  • Acknowledged: the passer-by demonstrated a registration of the alarm by either slowing down slightly or taking a look, turning their heads to look, or walking past then looking back to check on the car
  • Actioned: the passer-by investigated the car thoroughly to see who or what set off the alarm and either phoned the police or took similar action to register the occurrence

**Source: Aviva motor claims statistics for the Easter and May bank holiday weekends 2001-2010                                 

About Aviva

Aviva is one of the world's largest insurance groups* with 53 million customers worldwide and 46,000 employees.

Aviva’s main activities are long-term savings, fund management and general insurance, with worldwide total sales of £45.1 billion and funds under management of £379 billion*.

In the UK, Aviva takes care of its 19.2 million customers by helping them look after their future, protecting what’s important – from their health to their homes, their cars to their business – and saving for the future.

Aviva has a 10.5%** share of the UK life and pensions market and insures one in six homes and one in ten cars in the UK. It is also one of the oldest UK insurers, with a heritage stretching back more than 300 years.

RAC, which is owned by Aviva, provides breakdown and insurance services for individuals and businesses and has around seven million customers.

Aviva is carbon neutral worldwide, and is ranked in the top 10% of socially responsible companies globally by the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. In the UK, Aviva invested £3.8 million into local communities in 2009. Read our corporate responsibility report at

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*based on gross worldwide premiums at 31 December 2009

**Source: ABI data released August 2010

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