Thursday, November 09, 2006

Bethlehem pumps up its noise ordinance

The changes, passed by a unanimous vote without discussion, speed up the time it takes to cite motorists with loud stereos. It also adopts state noise levels to measure the sound coming from illegal mufflers.

Motorists are souping up their cars with expensive stereos that can carry bass levels of 160 decibels — louder than a shotgun blast. Some cruise the neighborhood in their ''boom cars,'' shaking the walls of the homes they drive past.

Meanwhile, other motorists are modifying their mufflers to make their engines sound more powerful.

The noise has been the subject of block watch meetings for at least the past year, illustrating the effectiveness of block watch groups. More discussed here.

Police have said they have had a hard time enforcing the law because, even if neighbors report the noise, the vehicle is gone by the time help arrives. Under the old regulations, even if police witness an infraction, it often took them 25 minutes to cite the person — time taken away from more serious offenses.

The changes move the violation from the crimes code to traffic regulations, thereby reducing the time it would take — five minutes — to that of a traffic ticket.

The other change to the noise ordinance addresses mufflers. The city adopted state standards for muffler noise, requiring cars to have working mufflers or another sound suppression system, and setting a decibel level for the first time. Using a formula including speed, the state's threshold for a car traveling under 35 mph — the speed limit in many neighborhoods — is 78 decibels and 82 for a motorcycle going the same speed. That is about the roar of a vacuum cleaner. The average car in Bethlehem puts out about 66 decibels.

First time offenders will be fined $50 to $100, and second-timers $100 to $300.

More here.

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