Belltown hellcat finally brought to justice

Photo credit: Pixabay

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

We have previously written about the Belltown Hellcat, a car noisily raced through Seattle’s streets. Now, it’s in the news again. Television station KIRO 7 and other media outlets report that the car’s owner and driver, Miles Hudson, was ordered to pay a fine of over $83,000 for failing to modify his vehicle’s exhaust.

Seattle City Attorney Ann Davidson said that it was time for Hudson to face the consequences of his actions. We agree. There are federal and state laws governing vehicle exhausts, and in most cities, noise ordinances that include regulations about vehicle noise or noise in general. Non-enforcement of these laws breeds contempt for the law as well as for those who write the laws and those who enforce them. Of course, those exposed to unwanted noise suffer stress, anxiety and disruption of activities and sleep.

Unfortunately, these laws aren’t enforced enough. Depending on the language of the law, enforcement can be difficult. If a decibel level is specified in the law, calibration of the meter may be challenged in court even if the ticketing officer followed standardized procedures to the letter. In cities where non-emergency horn honking is illegal, a ticket may not hold up in court if the officer did not see the driver press the horn. A vehicle stop can be potentially hazardous for the officer and the occupants of the car. And the police department may be scrutinized if a disproportionate number of minority drivers are stopped for noise infractions.

Additionally, some drivers consider the fines to be “the cost of doing business,” whether it is to support lucrative social media activities or help maintain what they consider to be their “true identity.” Some prefer to pay fines to reclaim their impounded vehicles than to restore the cars to manufacturer’s specifications.

I think that if enough people complain often and loudly enough to their elected officials about noise, eventually something will be done. That’s what happened in Seattle with the Belltown Hellcat. It can happen in your city or town, too.

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