Across the state, noise pollution from loud vehicles has become a significant problem in local communities. According to observations by law enforcement, this noise pollution is often caused by custom-made or aftermarket equipment that modifies vehicle exhausts to exceed noise limits set by state law. Noise pollution has been associated with short-term health impacts, like stress and discomfort. It has also been associated with serious long-term impacts, including sleep disturbance, cognitive impairment, hearing loss, high blood pressure and even cardiovascular disease. As part of a broader effort to crack down on noise pollution from illegally modified vehicles, the California State Legislature has passed Assembly Bill 2496, authored by Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris. The bill requires drivers ticketed 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 a much-needed tool to hold violators accountable.
“Every Californian deserves to live in a community that is 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.”
“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 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.”
“Streets for All is thrilled to see AB 2496 pass the legislature. Vehicular noise is bad for corridor businesses, a public health issue, and is an all-around nuisance for Californians,” said Marc Vukcevich, State Policy Advocate at Streets for All. “This bill tackles this issue in a holistic way. We are proud to see Assemblymember Petrie-Norris take on issues that vehicles pose on society and we are very hopeful the Governor will feel the same way and sign our bill.”
“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.”
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.
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 monetary fine to get them dismissed. Without a requirement to actually fix the problem, these tickets are not the preventative tool that is needed to stop repeat offenders.
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 towards 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.