Cracking Down on Loud Vehicle Noise Pollution

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AB 2496 Awaits Signature on Governor’s Desk

Photo by Mitch Ridder

Across the country, noise pollution from loud vehicles has become a significant problem in local communities, including Laguna Beach.

According to observations by law enforcement, custom-made or aftermarket equipment that modifies vehicle exhausts to exceed noise limits set by state law is often the root of the problem. 

Noise pollution can cause stress and discomfort in the short term, but in the long term, it can provoke sleep disturbance, cognitive impairment, hearing loss, high blood pressure and even cardiovascular disease. For that reason, Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Irvine) has authored Assembly Bill 2496, which the California State Legislature passed as part of a broader effort to crack down on noise pollution from illegally modified vehicles.

“Reducing noise pollution is a top priority for improving our resident’s quality of life,” said Laguna Beach Mayor Sue Kempf. “This legislation will give our local law enforcement efforts more teeth and help deter drivers with illegally modified loud exhaust from continuing to disrupt our community. Thank you to Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris and our neighboring cities for their partnership with us to help find a solution to this issue.”

The bill requires drivers stopped for an illegally modified exhaust to prove that they fixed the modification within three months or face a hold on their vehicle registration. This will provide law enforcement with a much-needed tool to hold violators accountable.

“The Laguna Beach Police Department shares the same concerns as our residents and visitors due to the nuisance of loud vehicles, and we continue to work diligently to address the issue,” said Laguna Beach Police Chief Jeff Calvert. “Though we’ve had some success to detour this quality of life issue by working with our regional law enforcement partners on joint loud exhaust enforcement operations, we have only been able to make an inconsequential impact. This legislation is important and will help us take our efforts a step further to finally address loud vehicles with modified exhaust impacting residents throughout Orange County.”

Under current law, public safety officials issue fix-it tickets to drivers operating illegally modified vehicles. These fix-it tickets can be resolved without providing any evidence of fixing the modified equipment. Drivers who intentionally modify their vehicles routinely receive fix-it tickets and pay a small fine to get them dismissed without the need to actually fix the problem, which does little to stop repeat offenders.

 “Every Californian deserves to live in a community free from noise pollution that negatively impacts health and quality of life,” said Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris (D-Irvine). “Today, drivers who break the law are not required to fix the illegal modifications that cause excessively loud vehicle noise. We’re updating the law and adding an enforcement mechanism to ensure that violators are actually required to fix these illegal modifications and eliminate noise pollution.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend maintaining environmental noise below 70 decibels over 24 hours to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. The WHO also recommends that noise levels remain below 30 decibels at night in order to achieve restful sleep. Noise is considered harmful around 70-80 decibels and painful above 120 decibels. California law prescribes a noise limit of 80 decibels for most vehicles, which is already above nearly all of these recommended noise levels. Vehicles that are illegally modified to amplify their noise cause even more disruption in our local communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 40 million adults age 20-69 suffer from noise-induced hearing loss across the country. Studies have even shown that consistent exposure to environmental noise may affect children’s cognitive development.

“Loud modified exhaust systems harm the health and wellbeing of those around them,” said Senator Portantino, Co-Author of AB 2496. “Although there are regulations in place for vehicles that contribute to harmful noise pollution, there is no universal procedure to monitor and enforce these restrictions. This is a public health issue and AB 2496 offers an effective solution to reduce noise pollution and improve the quality of life in our communities. I appreciate Assemblymember Petrie-Norris’s leadership on this issue.”

This summer, the Legislature also passed SB 1079, authored by Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D-Burbank) and co-authored by Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris, which will require the California Highway Patrol to evaluate the efficacy of sound-activated enforcement devices. Taken together, these bills will take the first steps toward providing our local communities with the enforcement tools they need to protect public health and ensure a higher quality of life for Californians across the state.

AB 2496 is supported by: Streets for All (Sponsor), City of Laguna Beach, City of Newport Beach, City of Irvine, City of Huntington Beach, City of Chino Hills, City of Oceanside, City of Tustin, City of Hayward and the Barbary Coast Neighborhood Association. AB 2496 passed the State Assembly with a 76-0 vote.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris; this has been a vexing problem for a long time, especially so for coastal communities. I hope the law is effective in providing law enforcement with the tools it needs to deter this anti-social behavior without being too labor intensive.

  2. Enforcement. Rules, laws and intent are USELESS unless enforced.

    For truthful transparency this article should list how many vehicles come thru Laguna Beach each year, how many vehicles were STOPPED AND CITED by our Laguna Police Department( we do have a city law about road noise already, right???) and if those cited actually quieted their vehicles. Do our police just ‘advise’ and set them free?

    Seems like an increasing cluster of LOUD vehicles from motorcycles to Ferraris race thru town and NO ONE does anything about it.

    Help Laguna Police, where are YOU?

  3. The text of AB2496 states that the sound threshold is 95 decibels, which is still quite loud.

    The text says that the law is not effective on motorcycles until 2027.

  4. Mr. Shraff, you’re 100% spot on!
    I live just below PCH near Nyes Place, in lower Vic——If the CLB truly wanted to discourage dangerous exhibitions of speed & the attendant noise, the CM would order the Chief of Police to set up shop between the entrance to the Aliso Creek Shopping Center/Montage Resort and said PCH/Nyes signals.
    Probably Ruby’s diner parking lot would be a good place for a radar gun and decibel meter carrying vehicle.
    That ≈1/3—1/2 mile is where those either traveling south or north start to accelerate to excessive rates of speed.
    As you are (I think) alluding to, “deterrence drives compliance,” and since it’s such a Homer Simpson (DUH) slam dunk zone, I’m positive that pricey tickets accompanied by the visual aids for scofflaws, of these vehicles pulled over, would penetrate the lizard brains of these waterheads.
    Social media would do a lot of the heavy lifting, word of mouth after even a 90-120 day pilot/demo might even qualify for a grant to subsidize expenditures.
    Publicize via main stream media, they eat this stuff up—-most are just sitting around waiting for something different.
    Which, being proactive, of course makes too much sense, expecting government to solve glaring public safety issues. They’re too busy posing and preening at ribbon cuttings, upscale soirees, etc..
    Anyone who knows Laguna knows all of this about this section of town.
    Except of course for our City Council, none of whom live south of Ruby.
    Their ox hasn’t been gored since Ann Christoph (So Lag) or Cheryl Kinsman (3 Arch Bay) were on CC.
    One caveat regarding my idea: The noisiest/fastest showoffs are usually expensive high performance vehicles, maybe the reason we don’t attempt to run them down and cite via ticketing are the dangers of high speed pursuits?
    I’ve lived in lower Vic for 16 years, many complain but none of our Chiefs or City Managers has ever done jack about this obvious, chronically in violation of common sense stretch.

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