New York City outfitting traffic cameras with sound meters to fine owners of vehicles causing too much noise pollution

The local government of New York City is planning to replace the Big Apple’s traffic cameras with ones that have sound meters to detect vehicles that cause too much noise pollution.

New York City is filled to the brim with loud noises like construction, honking cars and trucks, rumbling subway trains, sirens and shouting. This recent proposal is the latest in a year-long series of efforts to quiet the cacophony.

During a pilot program that lasted a full year, New York City authorities were able to use the traffic cameras to ticket 71 drivers for violating noise rules. The city’s Department of Environmental Protection viewed the program as a success and is now in the process of expanding the use of these cameras outfitted with roadside sound meters.

Vehicles with illegally modified mufflers and tailpipes that emit extremely loud noise have been a growing problem in recent years,” claimed New York City Council member Erik Bottcher, who championed the use of the sound meters in his district to help reduce “obnoxious” noise.

You listen to the noise out there, it is nonstop – the horns, the trucks, the sirens,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams in a recent press conference, blaming an expressway’s vehicle noise for causing illnesses. “Noise pollution makes it hard to sleep and increase the risk of chronic disease.”

Complaints over cars and motorcycles with modified mufflers have only been increasing since 2020.

Listening in on road noise is a step too far

New York City already has one of the most extreme noise ordinances in the country that dictate allowable levels for a whole variety of noisemakers, including chiming ice cream trucks, jackhammers and how long canines can continuously yap before the owners get fined.

The city is also covered by a state law known as the Stop Loud and Excessive Exhaust Pollution (SLEEP) Act, a law that went into effect last spring and raised fines for illegal modifications of exhaust systems and mufflers.

Fines for illegally loud cars and motorcycles can cost drivers a fine of $800 for a first offense, and up to $2,625 for drivers who “ignore a third-offense hearing,” prompting automobile enthusiasts in the city to claim that listening in on road noise is a step too far.

The majority of us live here in New York City, where noise pollution is part of our daily lives,” said Phillip Franklin, a 30-year-old car enthusiast from the Bronx, who launched an online petition protesting the state’s noise laws. “Fixing potholes is a lot more important than going after noisy cars.”

Franklin’s petition claims the law is biased against cars because it gives loud motorcycles more leeway when it comes to noise pollution. But the main crux of his argument against the SLEEP Act is that noise is a part of life in New York City and that louder exhausts are actually safer, as it allows motorists to signal their location to potentially oblivious pedestrians.

City officials have refused to divulge where the traffic cameras with sound meters are located, but new cameras are going up all over Manhattan, including the neighborhoods of Chelsea, the Flatiron District, the Garment District, Greenwich Village, Hell’s Kitchen, Hudson Square, Times Square and the Theater District.

Officials claimed that despite the exceptionally high fines for noise violations, this isn’t doing enough to discourage illegally loud vehicles, either because the already-high fines need to be raised or because the noise level rules are rarely enforced because the New York Police Department does not have the resources to properly police noisy cars.

Watch the following video talking about another excessive New York City ordinance: Its plan to ban the sale of new gas-fueled vehicles.


February 25, 2023



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