Photo credit: Allan Rosen

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

The photo above was sent to me by a friend who was visiting Charleston, South Carolina. This photo led me to think about the time in 2013 when New York City’s Department of Transportation’s Commissioner removed the “Don’t Honk” signs from our city streets because she believed the signs “cluttered the streets.” While many drivers respected the message and did not honk unnecessarily, I agree that a large number of drivers did continue to honk. Yet, in my opinion, signs such as “Don’t Honk” or “Curb Your Dog” serve as prompts, suggesting proper behavior, and should be posted in large urban areas. I was interviewed for the article cited above, and I said that the problem wasn’t the signs, but the lack of enforcement. Apparently with respect to motorized vehicles emitting loud and unnecessary sounds, lack of enforcement is still a problem today.

The sign above simply states: Noise Ordinance Enforced. While it does not refer to honking specifically, with loud vehicle sounds considered unlawful by the Charleston Noise Ordinance, I would say it does apply to such sounds. But the noise ordinance also speaks to other sounds being unlawful and the signs would cover them as well.

To learn more about the enforcement of the Charleston noise ordinance, I called the Office of Liability and Tourism in Charleston. The person who answered the phone was kind enough to give me some information on the ordinance’s enforcement. This office has code enforcement agents who issue the violations and report them to the office. There is also a court system that handles the violations. This is similar to the responsibilities of New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection with respect to the noise complaints they handle.

When I asked about any reports that review the noise violations and actions taken, I was told that I would have to file the appropriate forms for this information. We talked a bit more and she told me that for the most part, she did not consider Charleston a loud city.

Charleston is not only informing people that making noise is inappropriate but that engaging in such behavior will lead to a violation of its noise ordinance. Of course, one could ask whether people know what kinds of loud sounds and noise are not permitted. One hopes the signs result in more people reading the noise ordinance where they will learn about which sounds are inappropriate and learn that “excessive noise is a serious hazard to the public health, welfare, peace and safety and the quality of life of its residents and visitors.”