ASK A COP: Why Deafeningly Loud Motorcycles Not Cited?

What's it take to give a ticket to unmuffled cycles that rattle the Earth, not to mention your nerves?

From Patch Editor Brad Kava:

A Patch reader asks: 

Hi I would like to know why CHP and local law enforcement agencies do not enforce muffler violations on those motorcyclists on Harley Davidson bikes seem to always ignore. Was behind one the other day in the fast lane doing 65 plus and he passed me like I was standing still! The noise almost broke the windows, He had no mufflers whatsoever, just straight pipes! Why is this allowed??

Answer from CHP Officer Bradley Sadek:

Often we will observe a mechanical violation (ie: Illegal lighting, loud exhaust, tinted windows) and issue a "Fix-It ticket."  The unfortunate fact is, often those violators will correct the deficiency, get the citation signed off and paid for, then reinstall the equipment that got them the ticket in the first place.

It is also important to remember, just because a law exists, doesn't mean it isn't violated.  We get this question often relating to window tint. Just because motorists observe a lot of tinted windows doesn't mean we aren't enforcing that law, and the same is true for loud motorcycles and speeders.

With motorcycle exhaust, it can be a bit more tricky. Unfortunately our hands are tied up, just a bit.

(Info from AAA's website)

California Vehicle Code sections 27201 and 27202 established the following:

A noise limit of 92 decibels applies to any motorcycle manufactured before 1970. A noise limit of 88 decibels applies to motorcycles manufactured after 1969 and before 1973; 86 decibels applies to motorcycles manufactured after 1972 and before 1975; 83 decibels applies to motorcycles manufactured after 1974 and before 1986; 80 decibels applies to motorcycles manufactured after 1985.

Motorcycles registered in the state that are manufactured on or after 2013 or have an aftermarket exhaust system manufactured on or after 2013 must have the federal EPA noise emission label affixed to it in order to be operated, used, or parked in the state.

However, in order for us to enforce these regulations we are required to have a calibrated decibel meter! Psss..... we don't have calibrated decibel meters.

What we do have is section 27150 (a) which requires every motor vehicle to be equipped with "An adequate muffler in constant operation and properly maintained to prevent any excessive or unusual noise."

So what is excessive and unusual noise? If we can hear it from a distance of 50 feet, at freeway speeds, with our windows rolled up, and it is still uncomfortably loud, that is enough for us to stop that motorcycle for excessive exhaust noise.

Pete Jenkins January 27, 2014 at 10:17 PM
As a motorcycle rider who happens to have an unmodified exhaust system I certainly understand why some riders chose to make their bikes louder, it has to do with self preservation. If all motorists paid as much attention to their driving as they do texting, talking on phone, eating, drinking coffee or even putting on make up then maybe the motorcycle riders would feel less inclined to make sure that they are at least heard since more often than no we are not being seen....


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