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California Lawmakers Aim To Reduce Noise Pollution By Targeting Loud Exhausts 

January 23, 2023

For decades, the state of California has been fighting air pollution but in 2022, state officials shifted gears and began to focus on another threat potential scourge on the community – noise pollution. Many California residents complain of being jolted from their sleep in the middle of the night by modified cars racing down local roads. 

Can Loud Noise Be A Health Risk?

Health professionals estimate that constant exposure to loud noise increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes

According to Peter James, an assistant professor of environmental health at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health “When there’s a loud noise, the auditory system signals that something is wrong, triggering a fight-or-flight response in the body and flooding it with stress hormones that cause inflammation and can ultimately lead to disease” in a recent LA Times article.

Increased Enforcement of California Loud Exhaust Laws

California Highway Patrol stats suggest that the increased law enforcement of current noise laws are not working. Currently California’s main exhaust vehicle codes are 27150(a) and 27151 that state: 

Every motor vehicle subject to registration shall at all times be equipped with an adequate muffler in constant operation and properly maintained to prevent any excessive or unusual noise, and no muffler or exhaust system shall be equipped with a cutout, bypass, or similar device.

(a) No person shall modify the exhaust system of a motor vehicle in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the motor of the vehicle so that the vehicle is not in compliance with the provisions of Section 27150 or exceeds the noise limits established for the type of vehicle in Article 2.5 (commencing with Section 27200). No person shall operate a motor vehicle with an exhaust system so modified.

(b) For the purposes of exhaust systems installed on motor vehicles with a manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating of less than 6,000 pounds, other than motorcycles, a sound level of 95 dbA or less, when tested in accordance with Society of Automotive Engineers Standard J1169 May 1998, complies with this section. Motor vehicle exhaust systems or parts thereof include, but are not limited to, nonoriginal exhaust equipment.

In 2021, the last full year for which data are available, the CHP issued 2,641 tickets for excessive vehicle noise, nearly double 2018’s 1,400 citations. Even with twice the amount of citations, some residents complain they still cannot sleep.

New California Exhaust Laws Will Make It Harder For Repeat Violators

As loud exhausts have become more common over the years, the noise has caught the attention of California lawmakers who have passed two new laws recently.  

One of the noise laws approved in California in 2022, AB 2496, will require owners of vehicles that have been ticketed for noise to resolve the issue before they can re-register them through the Department of Motor Vehicles. Currently, drivers can pay a fine and keep their illegally modified cars as they are. The law takes effect in 2027.

The other law, SB 1097, tasks the highway patrol to recommend a brand of noise-detecting cameras to the Legislature by 2025. Similar systems are already in use in Paris, New York City, and Knoxville, Tenn., could automatically issue tickets if they detected a car traveling louder than the allowed decibel level. 

While the state is taking more steps to fight noise pollution from loud exhausts they probably won’t be going anywhere soon. Unless the Gov. vetos these laws, they won’t really have any effect for several years. CHP will take years to complete their noise detection camera study and implement such a system. That said, loud exhausts seem to be a target for CHP based on their own enforcement data. It might not be the best idea to remove a muffler or purchase an aftermarket exhaust louder than the 95db limit, it probably is going to lead to some tickets. 

What to Do If You Get A Ticket For Loud Exhaust In California?

If you have been ticketed for operating a vehicle with “excessive noise” you do have options. Our attorneys are very experienced in fighting all types of California traffic violations including tickets for loud exhaust or no muffler. Having any type of blemish on your driving record could lead to problems down the road, if you don’t take care of the ticket the state will end up suspending your license and create an even bigger headache! Our team is ready to help you so grab your ticket and call 1-800-CITATION.