$96 for noise citations

June 6, 2011


America generally has done a very good job in reducing water and air pollution. If you have been in Beijing or Manila where the air is so polluted that most people wear air-filter masks in public, then you can appreciate the only slightly dirty air of New York City or other urban areas.  There is one form of pollution, though, that we haven’t fully tackled yet: noise pollution. In residential areas the decibel levels can climb in the summer months as souped-up motorcycles are brought out of storage and people roll down the car windows and crank up the tunes. A little history from Wikipedia:

In the 1960s and earlier, few people recognized that citizens might be entitled to be protected from adverse sound level exposure. Most concerted actions consisted of citizens groups organized to oppose a specific highway or airport, and occasionally a nuisance lawsuit would arise. Things in the United States changed rapidly with passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in 1969 and the Noise Pollution and Abatement Act, more commonly called the Noise Control Act (NCA), in 1972.

Passage of the NCA was remarkable considering the lack of historic organized citizen concern. However, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had testified before Congress that 30 million Americans are exposed to non-occupational noise high enough to cause hearing loss and 44 million Americans live in homes impacted by aircraft or highway noise.

It’s a noisy world out there, but we don’t have to take it!  Noise is local and enforcement must be local too. The ABC affiliate in Milwaukee filed the interesting news report in the video above about a simple police technique of using a laser to measure the distance between an oncoming car that’s blaring music and a police officer. It’s a low cost and effective method to measure noise levels.

The best part of the process is that drivers are fined $96 for the first offense and $172 for repeat offenses. I’m sure that as word spreads through a community about expensive fines for noise violations, the sound level will decrease pretty quickly.

I’m not broadly in favor of a community’s law-enforcement authorities monitoring and controlling every aspect of municipal life, but I’ve found noise pollution to be especially aggressive towards others, especially the elderly and infirm. They suffer in silence as revved-up drivers fill the common space with noise. My message to towns and cities: peaceful and quiet public spaces make happier and more productive citizens. So get some noise legislation on the books and enforce it.


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“I’m not broadly in favor of a community’s law-enforcement authorities monitoring and controlling every aspect of municipal life, but…”. The “but” usually means “because I (the person complaining) am inconvenienced now so something needs to be done about it!”

Posted by iflydaplanes | Report as abusive

Let’s be honest with each other: This is about Harley Davidson motorcycles. The author only threw in the “tunes” for cover. HD cycles can indeed be annoying, but this is not going to change any time soon. Just accept it and watch the relevant South Park episode once each year.

Posted by mheld45 | Report as abusive

“This” may well be about Harleys, but at least in my experience, by far the most common form of noise pollution in most residential neighborhoods, is yap trash abandoned in back yards. With distant second place three way contested by backup beepers, helicopters/propeller aircraft and lawn movers/leaf blowers. Motorcycles, while often loud, are only heard very occasionally.

Of course, the only sensible way of formulating noise regulation, is to fine offenders based on some function of a (possibly weighted) noise measurement, and perhaps the time of day. And thereafter treat all offenders equally, whether they be backyard firing ranges, yap trash, ambulance sirens or screaming children. With “some of us are more equal than others” Democrats generally the ones pushing for regulation, fat chance of that happening, however :(

Posted by Stuki | Report as abusive