California plans to enforce sound laws with automated cameras and microphones for cars and motorcycles. (World Cycle Archive /)

Do loud trumpets save lives? Less sound – more ground? Loud bikes have always been the subject of controversy in the motorcycle community, so news from California last week is sure to be controversial.

Vehicle noise laws are not new: most state laws are detailed and specific, referring to decibels; some even cite how they need to be measured. About 20 states use vague expressions, such as, “Every car should always be equipped with a muffler in good working order” or “A car operated on any highway should be in good mechanical condition and properly equipped. ”

However, according to our observations, many vehicle noise laws do not seem to be enforced, and when a quote is issued, it is usually “corrected”. In 2019, a mandatory fine was added in California (Bill № 1824), although few noticed any noticeable changes. Now a new weapon has appeared in the acoustic arsenal: from January 2023 to December 2027, California will test automated exhaust noise cameras in six selected cities in the state.

Senate Bill 1079 is not specifically targeted at motorcyclists, but we note that the car is currently limited to 95 decibels in the state and 80 decibels in motorcycles. For the first time, violators will be issued only a warning, and signs must be placed informing motorists that they are entering the law enforcement zone.

And California is not alone. Recently established are Paris, Nice, Toulouse and three other French cities jellyfish “Sound radars” for photographing and quoting loud vehicles.

The main problems

Think about it, and you will have two separate points of discussion: first, the modification of the car’s exhaust, and secondly, automated law enforcement. The latter is not new; California has used red light cameras for decades with varying degrees of success. In the more picturesque parts of the city where the author grew up, authorities had to wrap them in bulletproof enclosures, raising armor levels when locals switched from pistols to rifles. Next was a spray can of paint on the end of the wand, skillfully applied to the camera lens. In many parts of Europe, automated speed control using radars and cameras is the norm.

Next there is the sound, and despite what the decibelmeter says, it’s not all the same. The sound level that you may like at the racetrack or at a concert is undesirable at three in the morning. The big component is the amount of control you have, or the lack of that control. One study shows that one undamaged scooter traveling through Paris can disturb the sleep of up to 10,000 people. Are you going to Superbike or MotoGP competitions in Laguna Seca? The famous 17-mile road to Pebble Beach has long been closed to motorcycles (although this writer rode there on several bikes – and it was great!).

Naturally, if we all ride electric motorcycles, it won’t matter. And already a friend (CB, you know who you are!) Offered to have fun with the system, sitting under one of these cameras and signaled every time a Tesla or Prius passes by.

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