DC explores idea to photograph and fine excessively noisy vehicles

Hope may be on the horizon for D.C. residents exasperated with the sound of loud vehicles disrupting their lives round-the-clock: One lawmaker has a plan to find and fine the offenders.

In proposing legislation for consideration by the D.C. Council, Ward 2 Council member Brooke Pinto noted that the idea came from necessity, as residents filed an overwhelming number of noise complaints.

“This is an issue that I hear from residents all the time — a frustration — of excessive vehicle noise that really affects their quality of life, that impacts their sleep, and their day-to-day lives,” Pinto told WTOP.

In trying to get creative about how to dampen the street noise, her team found new technology that  enables cameras to pick up higher decibels and home in on the source of the noise, suggesting each ward get two as part of a pilot program.

(Courtesy of Council member Brooke Pinto)

“This camera would take a picture of the noise that’s in excess of a reasonable volume,” Pinto said.

“Then it would be sent to (the District Department of Transportation) for review, and ultimately, a fine would be issued.”

She acknowledges the cameras would pick up and likely photograph emergency vehicles, as well. As it’s currently written, the bill would include a subsidy for residents with unintentionally loud vehicles to get them fixed.

“We’re trying to empower residents to get ahead of it,” she said.

“But the vast majority of cars that are making these noises are cars that have been purposely altered to remove parts of their car that make the vehicle so loud; and we see this in certain parts of the city, where people are speeding at various times of the day or night, purposely making this type of noise.”

D.C.’s Department of Buildings does have a noise ordinance. On its website is noted, “Every person living in the District is entitled to reasonable noise levels that do not threaten life, health, and enjoyment of his or her property.”

However, it does not specify what decibel vehicles must remain below in order to be in compliance with city regulations.

The issue of noise pollution is becoming more prominent nationwide. In the 2021-2022 session of Congress, a bill was introduced to reestablish the Office of Noise Abatement and Control as part of the Department of Energy and Environment.

It seeks to study, in part, the effect that vehicular and airplane noise is having on communities.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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