New Traffic Cameras Can Use Sound to Ticket Noisy Cars

Emily Parkin

A BMW M3 owner was ticketed in New York for violating the city’s Noise Code after being recorded and photographed by a new type of traffic camera that can measure the decibel levels near the roadway as a vehicle passes. These new devices can automatically issue a ticket if the car is exceeds noise thresholds. More reports indicate we could expect to see more new “noise cameras” popping up nationwide.

The ticket was issued by New York’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), posted to the Lowered Congress Facebook page and reported on by Road & Track. It instructs the owner of the car to have the allegedly noncompliant muffler repaired or replaced, and to take the vehicle to a DEP location for inspection once complete. It’s New York City, so in the case of this ticket, the owner happens to have been asked to report to an actual sewage treatment plant, which must be where the DEP conducts some of its vehicle inspections.

A $875 charge is threatened if the vehicle owner does not comply, and additional fines are threatened if the notice goes unanswered. Here’s how the city’s letter describes the operation of the traffic camera: 

“[Y]our vehicle has been identified as having a muffler that is not in compliance with Section 386 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, which prohibits excessive noise from motor vehicles. Your vehicle was recorded by a camera that takes a picture of the vehicle and the license plate. In addition, a sound meter records the decibel level as the vehicle approaches and passes the camera. “

The Department of Environmental Protection confirmed to Road & Track that such a system does indeed exist, and is in operation at the location of the ticketed BMW M3 that was posted, so these noise traps are real and they’re out there. This specific NYC camera is part of a larger DEP pilot program that started in September 2021, and is planned to carry on until June 30, 2022, when it will be reevaluated by the Department. Strangely, R&T found out the traffic camera program is not officially a part of New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s recent legislation to cut down noise pollution. 

NYC doesn’t appear to be the first program to use similar anti-noise traffic camera tech. In fact, just this week the City of Knoxville, Tenn. announced a similar program to crack down on noisy motorists, using what it calls “noise cameras” from U.K. manufacturer Intelligent Instruments Ltd. Knoxville’s trial program is designed to record all vehicle data when the traffic camera is triggered, including audio levels as the car passes by, and then the vehicle data is uploaded to a server where an actual human technician then decides to proceed with issuing a ticket or not.

It could be the same company behind both new noise ticketing trials in the U.S. An ABC 5 WATE news station report from October, 2021 says Intelligent Instruments Ltd. also operates a pilot program in NYC as well as seven of its noise cameras in its hometown of London, England. It’s unclear if the New York City program handles data ticket issuing in the same manner as Knoxville’s new plan.

This may just be a couple of audiophile cameras a Brooklyn or Knoxville neighborhood today, but maybe it could come to an intersection near you in the near future.

https://www.motortrend.com/news/new-york-traffic-camera-exhaust-noise-muffler-ticket/

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