Photo credit: Ignacio Palés

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

With cities like New York, Paris, and London setting up pilot programs to use noise cameras to identify vehicles traversing the streets and imposing excessive and harmful sound levels on city residents, we now learn that California is getting ready to implement noise cameras in six of its cities. The legislation is awaiting the signature of California Governor Gavin Newsom so that the program can start on January 1, 2023.

While Californian cities already have set decibel levels for exhaust systems for automobiles like other cities internationally, enforcement similarly has been a problem. It is hoped that cameras identifying loud vehicles will enable greater enforcement. As part of its pilot program, signs will inform drivers when they are entering roads employing noise cameras. Additionally, first time offenders will not be fined. Cities that will be part of this program will choose the roads that will be part of the pilot project. Other aspects of the program are still being worked out. The article also notes that there are some automobile models that already exceed the set decibel levels and one has to wonder how this will be handled. Will manufacturers of these cars have to alter their vehicles to be part of the Californian market, asks the author of this article, Emmet White?

White alerts readers that the cities participating in the pilot project will have to develop methods to properly assess the accuracy of the noise cameras in identifying vehicles exceeding the set sound levels. He wonders if the resulting penalties issued to drivers will stand as a “blueprint for more equitable traffic enforcement.” Interestingly, he concludes his article by letting his readers know that California residents will be switching over “to the high-pitched hum of electric power.”