Disturbed by excessive car noise? Start letting police know

By Roderick Benns

Disturbed by excessive car noise? Start telling the police

What’s more annoying than excessively loud car or motorcycle noise?

Not much, for most people. And yet Kawartha Lakes Police Service write very few tickets for this infraction, mainly because most people don’t complain about it to them. So far in 2019, police have only issued two infraction notices for “unnecessary noise.”

Typically, police choose an “enforcement initiative” each month to concentrate on (distracted driving, impaired driving, etc.), choices that are often generated by concerns raised by the community, according to Sgt. Dave Murtha.

“Complaints of excessive noise from vehicles has not been a common complaint received by our service, but an initiative that targets excessive noise from vehicles is certainly possible,” says Murtha.

Section 75(4) of the Highway Traffic Act addresses the offence of “unnecessary noise”:

Unnecessary noise

(4) A person having the control or charge of a motor vehicle shall not sound any bell, horn or other signaling device so as to make an unreasonable noise, and a driver of any motor vehicle shall not permit any unreasonable amount of smoke to escape from the motor vehicle, nor shall the driver at any time cause the motor vehicle to make any unnecessary noise…”

But what about the fact that some people actually amplify the noise that comes from their vehicle by buying products designed to do so?

“There are many products sold for vehicles such as license plate covers, tint for windows and loud muffler systems…that are legal for retailers to sell, but not necessarily legal for drivers in Ontario to add to their vehicles,” says Murtha.

Many of these products come with warnings to buyers that the product may not comply with local laws and regulations, he points out, but this is often ignored by the consumer.

“When the vehicle owner makes modifications to the muffler system or adds a new system designed to be loud, there could be an offence taking place,” he says.

Murtha says many officers will charge a driver with unnecessary noise, rather than an improper muffler charge, if the exhaust system of a vehicle is excessively loud. The evidence for the charge is based on the officers own observations and their opinion about the noise emanating from the vehicle.

“Police services do not rely on some type of device to measure decibel readings for noise coming from a vehicle, as the Highway Traffic Act does not specify an acceptable decibel level for vehicles,” he notes.

The sergeant says an officer will therefore rely on his or her own observations.

“For example, did pedestrians nearby stop and appear disturbed by the noise of a vehicle as it accelerated loudly from an intersection?” This could also include unnecessary squealing of tires.

Call police at the time of incident

To make a dent in the amount of excessive noise coming from vehicles in Lindsay and other Kawartha Lakes’ communities, it’s important to call police at the time of the incident.

In some cases a resident on a street will report a specific vehicle that passes by their home on a daily basis, Murtha explains, creating excessive noise in the process.

“An officer may respond to this complaint by trying to locate and observe the vehicle and use their own observations of the noise, as well as those of the complainant as their evidence of an offence taking place,” he says.

As for loud stereos on vehicles, this is typically addressed through local noise by-laws, as opposed to the ‘unnecessary noise’ section of the Highway Traffic Act.

For a driver who his convicted of the offence of “unnecessary noise” or an “improper muffler” the set fine under the Highway Traffic Act is $85.

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