Impacts of pavement types on in-vehicle noise and human health

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Noise is a major source of pollution that can affect the human physiology and living environment. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an exposure for longer than 24 hours to noise levels above 70 dB(A) may damage human hearing sensitivity, induce adverse health effects, and cause anxiety to residents nearby roadways. Pavement type with different roughness is one of the associated sources that may contribute to in-vehicle noise. Most previous studies have focused on the impact of pavement type on the surrounding acoustic environment of roadways, and given little attention to in-vehicle noise levels. This paper explores the impacts of different pavement types on in-vehicle noise levels and the associated adverse health effects. An old concrete pavement and a pavement with a thin asphalt overlay were chosen as the test beds. The in-vehicle noise caused by the asphalt and concrete pavements were measured, as well as the drivers’ corresponding heart rates and reported riding comfort. Results show that the overall in-vehicle sound levels are higher than 70 dB(A) even at midnight. The newly overlaid asphalt pavement reduced in-vehicle noise at a driving speed of 96.5 km/hr by approximately 6 dB(A). Further, on the concrete pavement with higher roughness, driver heart rates were significantly higher than on the asphalt pavement. Drivers reported feeling more comfortable when driving on asphalt than on concrete pavement. Further tests on more drivers with different demographic characteristics, along highways with complicated configurations, and an examination of more factors contributing to in-vehicle noise are recommended, in addition to measuring additional physical symptoms of both drivers and passengers.Implications: While there have been many previous noise-related studies, few have addressed in-vehicle noise. Most studies have focused on the noise that residents have complained about, such as neighborhood traffic noise. As yet, there have been no complaints by drivers that their own in-vehicle noise is too loud. Nevertheless, it is a fact that in-vehicle noise can also result in adverse health effects if it exceeds 85 dB(A). Results of this study show that in-vehicle noise was strongly associated with pavement type and roughness; also, driver heart rate patterns presented statistically significant differences on different types of pavement with different roughness.