New York City noise cameras are catching, and fining, loud drivers

Photo credit: Helena Lopes

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report on the Road & Track website, published earlier this month, discusses the effectiveness of New York City’s pilot noise camera program in catching cars with loud exhausts. The program, called the Stop Spreading the Noise Act, is operated jointly by the city’s Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Transportation. The sound cameras are like speed or red light cameras. The only difference is that the locations of the cameras are not disclosed to the public. Each of the city’s five boroughs has five cameras. Fines start at $800 and increase to $2,500 for repeat offenders.

The story describes a 2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S with an unmodified exhaust. Despite not having an illegally-modified exhaust, the noise camera found the car to be too loud and the driver was fined $800. The driver was accelerating to beat a traffic light when his car was found to have exceeded the city’s 85 decibel noise limit. He appealed his fine to the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, but lost. New York City is living up to the promise of Council Majority Leader Keith Powers, who said this in a statement last year: “Even in the city that doesn’t sleep, New Yorkers serve some peace and quiet.”

To my surprise, Road & Track mentions research showing that transportation noise pollution is linked to sleep disruption, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Nighttime noise disrupting sleep is particularly deleterious

A driver’s freedom to have a noisy vehicle stops at the ears of those who have to hear the noise, and now, at the microphones of New York City’s sound cameras. I hope the city makes this pilot project permanent, invests in more noise cameras and continues to successfully enforce the law. A quieter city will be a better and healthier city for all.

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