Drivers want to see illegally loud vehicle owners prosecuted.

According to new RAC research, the majority of motorists want to see new technology that can detect vehicles with illegally loud exhausts, or where their engines are revved unnecessarily, rolled out across the UK.

Six-in-10 drivers (58%) would be in favour of so-called ‘noise cameras’ being widely used.

On trial

The Department for Transport (DfT) commissioned a £300,000 trial of the technology, which started in October. Four locations were chosen – Bradford, Bristol, Great Yarmouth and Birmingham.

The system uses a video camera in conjunction with a number of microphones. These can  accurately pinpoint vehicles exceeding the 74-decibel legal limit as they pass by.

It takes a picture of the vehicle and records the noise level to create a digital package of evidence which can be used by local police to fine drivers.

Too loud

The RAC research reveals that only a fifth (22%) of drivers were against the idea. A similar proportion (20%) were unsure.

“Our research with drivers shows there is a very strong desire to put an end to the scourge of excessively noisy vehicles,” says RAC head of policy Simon Williams. He described it as disturbing the peace all around the country.

“It’s plain wrong that those who have fitted their cars with modified exhausts,” he adds. “Owners can currently just get away with making an unacceptable amount of noise”.

“Fortunately, the Department for Transport’s recent noise camera trials may provide the solution. We hope the findings are positive and that the technology can be quickly and cost-efficiently rolled out to the worst affected areas.”

Keeping the peace

A third (34%) of those who took part in the study regularly hear excessively loud exhausts. This rose to nearly half of drivers in London (47%) and to 40% in Wales and Scotland.

Half of all drivers (51%) questioned said they occasionally hear one or more vehicles with particularly loud exhausts.

Currently there is a £50 on-the-spot fine for a vehicle breaching the 74-decibel limit is appropriate. Those surveyed were split on whether this was enough.

Four-in-10 (39%) felt the fine had been set at the right level whereas. However, 37% disagreed, and a quarter (24%) were undecided.

Of those who felt the fine wasn’t severe enough, 43% thought it should carry a £200 fine and a driving ban until the exhaust was found to comply with the legal decibel limit. Among Londoners this shot up to more than two-thirds (67%).

Makes sense

“There is no good reason why cars and motorbikes should make so much noise,” continues Williams. “The sooner effective camera enforcement can be put in place the better”.

There is, however, no requirement for MOT testers to use decibel meters to check exhaust noise levels, while the Government estimates the annual social cost of urban road noise, including lost productivity from sleep disturbance and health costs, is up to £10 billion.

Roads minister Richard Holden said: “Boy racers are an anti-social menace and we have extensively trialled noise camera technology in various parts of the country over the past year.

“We are currently analysing data from the trials and will update in due course on any future measures which will help bring peace and tranquillity back to our towns, cities and villages.”

The London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea was the first local authority to trial acoustic cameras in May 2022.