Presenting the Next Automated Traffic Enforcement Device—the Noise Camera

Editor’s Note: Originally this post appeared as NMA Weekly E-Newsletter #656 in August 2021. If you would like to read our weekly newsletters every week, subscribe today.

 

Let’s face it—most of us dislike loud motorcycles or vehicles revving up next to us at an intersection, blowing by us on an interstate, or disrupting the solitude of our neighborhoods. But to use automated devices to catch people who are exceedingly noisy seems to push us deeper into the world of Big Brother than we should ever go. Unfortunately, the anti-car folks are using loud vehicles as an excuse to advance their agenda.

New York State Senator Andrew Gounardes recently introduced two bills to fight loud vehicles. The first is S9009, the SLEEP Act (Stop Loud and Excessive Exhaust Pollution). This bill would increase the punishment for noise limit violations and streamline the process for officers to enforce noise limit law. Currently, the penalty for violations attributed to after-market muffler and exhaust systems is up to $150. Gounardes wants to increase that amount to $1,000.

The New York criterion for a violation was described only as excessive or unusual noise that was left to the officer’s discretion. Under the bill, the noise limit would be defined as 95 decibels for motorcycles and 60 for cars. Here is a reference point—a vacuum cleaner within 10 feet has a noise level of approximately 70 decibels. If the SLEEP Act becomes law, it would also require that all police vehicles be equipped with sound level meters.

The second bill, NY Senate Bill S6057, asks for noise-monitoring cameras to be implemented in New York City. Similar to speed cameras, the devices would capture photo and video footage of vehicles that exceed the noise limits outlined by the NYC Noise Control Code.

Westchester County, New York, has already decided to do a trial run with these microphone-enhanced cameras. In July, the Westchester Board of Legislators approved a $125,000 noise camera pilot program located along the Bronx River Parkway. The county would not be able to issue any tickets during the six to nine-month program since S6057 hasn’t been passed by the state legislature in Albany yet.

Where this all gets insane is through the overwrought rhetoric spewed by the anti-car crowd. Here are some snippets from a recent opinion piece on the Streetsblog NYC website:

“Loud driving is destructive recreation that glorifies fossil-fuel consumption.”

“Promoting car culture by letting loud drivers do what they want normalizes driving for another generation of impressionable New Yorkers. It mocks our climate goals.”

“Deliberate, fossil-fueled noise is a growing public-health threat demanding a multifaceted, whole-of-government solution.”

“As with Vision Zero, better engineering of our public spaces is the most important part of confronting loud driving. The opportunity to speed is an opportunity to make noise. Engineering solutions to speeding—road diets, narrowed lanes, automated enforcement, and more—will also quiet traffic.”

“Law enforcement should focus on the loud-driving profiteers, from carmakers to gas stations.”

We would laugh if the people behind those thoughts weren’t so dead serious about canceling car culture.

The acoustic cameras are currently being tested in the United Kingdom. In 2016, the British government enacted a law to limit new cars to no more than 74 decibels. The targets of the regulation are mostly older cars and modified motorcycles. At issue, though, is whether these type of cameras can identify one vehicle’s noise emissions from another’s and single out cars from other possible sources of sound.

The website DriveTribe has a funny take on noise cameras that only a Brit might appreciate. Meanwhile, UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling remarked that the acoustic cameras could help the already stretched thin police officers enforce noise regulations on ‘boy racers in souped-up vehicles.’

The mission creep of automated enforcement is impressive, and not in a good way.

 

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