Hush your ride: Noise abatement cameras could come to Montgomery Co. to crack down on excessive car noise

Montgomery County has speed cameras and red-light cameras. Soon, noise-detecting cameras could be joining the traffic enforcement tools used across the Maryland county.

Montgomery County Council Vice President Kate Stewart and District 6 Council member Natali Fani-Gonzalez are working on legislation to bring noise abatement cameras to the county.

Both lawmakers said they have been fielding complaints about excessive noise from cars for years.

“It’s a huge problem,” said Stewart. “Even before I got on the county council, when I was mayor in the City of Takoma Park, it’s been a huge issue.”

Stewart said that in her neighborhood, “I can hear cars, like five, six blocks away, on New Hampshire Avenue.”

She said she can relate to constituents, who work overnight and sleep during the day and often find their sleep disrupted.

Stewart said the noise from modified mufflers can be so loud, “It wakes you up, and then the dog starts barking, and it’s a whole thing!”

Fani-Gonzalez, who lives near Georgia Avenue, said her family has found it bothersome, too. They often hear cars “racing along Georgia Avenue, late at night, almost every day (but) especially on weekends.”

Stewart explained the cameras are outfitted with microphones that are calibrated to pick up sound at a particular level.

Once the noise hits a designated threshold, the camera is activated, and the offending car is caught on video. Stewart said just as other automated citations are reviewed, the noise camera legislation would include that in the process: “As with any violation, somebody can obviously go and contest it (in court).”

Fani-Gonzalez said it’s not just a question of annoying noise, but an issue of safety. She said she understands the appeal of the modifications that make heads turn. The drivers who make the modifications to the cars “want to make sure that people know they are there and they find that fun, but sometimes fun can be dangerous,” she said.

When asked to explain the link between noisy cars and road safety, Fani-Gonzalez said the appeal isn’t all in the sonic effects: “It’s the excitement of combining the noise with speed.” She added that it “is not a good combination,” especially when cars travel on roads like Georgia Avenue.

Some car enthusiasts who enjoy tinkering with their car’s ability to hit “wake the neighbors” levels of noise often post how-to videos on social media.

Stewart said she understands that people want to be able to enjoy their cars.

“I very much favor people being able to express themselves,” she said, “(but) when that impedes someone’s ability to enjoy their own life (and get a good night’s sleep), that’s where we need the balance.”

The enabling legislation passed in Annapolis allows Montgomery and Prince George’s counties to authorize the use of “noise abatement monitoring systems.”

Once any county legislation is in place, the counties would have until Dec. 1, 2025, to report on the implementation costs and the revenues collected to the governor and the General Assembly.

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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