Photo credit: Dave Dugdale licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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

State Senator Andrew Gounardes has introduced state legislation that would increase the fine for modifying vehicle mufflers from $150 to $1,000. Senator Gounardes’ bill would also provide police cars with decibel readers to enforce this legislation which also states specific sound levels that cannot be exceeded. This legislation is in response to the number of complaints that have come from New York City residents who have lost sleep because of the “loud dirt bikes and drag racing well into the night.” This legislation is known as SLEEP which stands for Stop Loud and Excessive Exhaust Pollution.

Having seen that cities such as Taiwan and London have also introduced pilot programs involving noise cameras to their streets to deter loud driving, Gounardes would like to add a noise camera pilot program to his legislation. He then says that this pilot program would be properly evaluated to determine whether it would be an effective tool in lessening vehicle loudness. The article points out that speed cameras, to which this noise cameras program can be compared, have reduced speeding and accidents in school zones in New York City where they have been placed.

Responding to a criticism that noise cameras could be used to record conversations in cars, Gounardes responded that the cameras would only be triggered off at specific decibel levels. One can assume that these levels would be louder than normal conversation.

A further criticism raised by Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, centered on the possibility that noise cameras might be used to track loud demonstrators. Said Cahn, “[t]he answer to noise pollution simply can’t be a NYPD listening device on every corner.”