California Targets Loud Exhaust with Sound-Activated Camera Enforcement

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Well known for stringent emissions and modification regulations, the California State Legislature has approved a five-year automated enforcement pilot program targeting loud exhaust from cars. If signed by California Governor Gavin Newsom, the camera-enforcement program will begin January 1. The bill specifies six undisclosed cities throughout California to take part in this experimental program.

Before panic sets in among West Coast enthusiasts, it’s important to read the fine print of the nuanced Senate bill. California has long specified the decibel level at which stock or modified exhaust systems are deemed too loud—95 decibels for cars and 80 for motorcycles built after 1985—and this hasn’t changed. What has changed, however, is the means of enforcement.

A "sound-activated enforcement system" means sensors are activated when noise levels exceed legal limits, and smart cameras are used "to obtain a clear photograph of a vehicle license plate," the text of Senate Bill 1079 reads. Similar to speed-camera thresholds found around the world, these cameras are triggered by high decibel levels and can zero in on the offender's plate. It is not immediately clear how these cameras will pinpoint vehicles in traffic, or how they will differentiate between cars and motorcycles.