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.

DJParker January 27, 2014 at 11:39 AM
Jst another example of a scenario where the Cops can "pick and choose" who they want to cite.
Joan Roos January 27, 2014 at 02:02 PM
I have a decibel meter (about $100 uncalibrated), and I find that if a sound 'hurts my ears' it measures above 90dB, and above 100dB, I physically cringe and look for escape. Actually, on the highway when a 100+ dB motorcycle passes me between my lane and the next I am badly startled and no doubt rendered an unsafe driver for a few moments.
Don Scott January 28, 2014 at 02:32 AM
The cops are afraid of the bikers. Sad state of affairs, but why else would they let the noise go without ticketing bikes that are running without mufflers?
Chris Martinez February 15, 2014 at 05:15 PM
Cops aren't afraid of bikers. That's just silly. Loud pipes keep motorcyclists safe. If you've ever been side swiped by a vehicle (or if you've ever sideswiped a motorcyclist because they were in your blind spot) you would think the same way.
citizen10 April 06, 2014 at 11:07 AM
The cops are indeed a sad state of affairs. Officers insist on using illegal loud Harley's (Oakland PD), officers often own these motorcycles themselves. Chris Martinez brings up an oft mentioned but totally incorrect "argument" for using loud mufflers - that they save lives. If anything the opposite is true, the "loud pipes save lives" is total BS for many reasons you can find on the internet (science based). What loud pipes do is infringe of the rights and lives of everyone else.


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