Photo credit: Sven van Bellen from Pexels

by Jan L. Mayes, MSc, Audiologist

A recent article by Tristin Hopper in Canada’s National Post argues that motorcyclists are wrong when they say, “Loud pipes save lives.” I agree that aftermarket exhaust system modifications to make motorcycles louder don’t improve safety.

Loud pipes don’t alert other drivers that a motorcycle is coming. Loud pipes only leave a lot of harmful noise pollution as motorcycles go by. The noise is also enough to give the rider noise-induced tinnitus or hearing loss.

Hopper wishes these motorcycle riders would recognize the error of their ways and realize, “Maybe I’m not the only person in the world. Maybe, just maybe, there are other homo sapiens who live around me and they may not like to be involuntarily subjected to unsafe levels of auditory pollution.”

Since that is unlikely to happen voluntarily with people who like things loud, Hopper recommends police actions for unmuffled motorcycles include tickets, fines, and license demerits. I suggest loss of license and motorcycle confiscation as disincentives to make aftermarket exhaust modifications. The suggested use of sound radar to target enforcement has been considered in some cities.

Federally approved exhausts have been required for decades in the U.S. In Canada, enforcement of unmuffled motorcycles seems to be left to individual police departments, like Ottawa’s Project Noisemaker.

A more cohesive mandatory enforcement approach is certainly needed to prevent harmful noise pollution from motorcycles with aftermarket exhaust modifications. It’s a matter of public health. I don’t think police should hesitate to target riders with illegally loud pipes.

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