Can you get a ticket if your vehicle is too loud?

It may come as a surprise to some but you can get a ticket for having an excessively loud vehicle. Vehicles make a multitude of loud noises. Screeching brakes, a rattling engine, skidding tires. The question is, when does the noise become an offence?

It’s not just any noise that can cause an offence, a key requirement has to be that the noise was unnecessary. Vehicle noise is covered in Division 7A of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations (MVAR). It states:

No person shall start, drive, turn or stop any motor vehicle, or accelerate the vehicle engine while the vehicle is stationary, in a manner which causes any loud and unnecessary noise in or from the engine, exhaust system or the braking system, or from the contact of the tires with the roadway.

The key phrase here is “loud and unnecessary”. Anything that is excessively loud without good reason is deemed a violation of the regulation. The wording of this regulation covers things like revving the engine, wheel spins and custom exhausts purposely installed to make noise.

How do police decide if a vehicle is too loud

The MVAR sets maximum sound pressure limits for different classes of vehicle. It is up to an inspector to decide whether exhaust gases are expelled with excessive noise. They must determine if the engine and exhaust noise is greater than that made by other vehicles in good condition of comparable size, horsepower, piston displacement or compression ratio.

If a police officer suspects your engine or exhaust does not comply with the MVAR they may serve you a Notice of Inspection. This requires you to have your vehicle inspected at a licensed inspection facility within 30 days.

Inspectors will test whether the sound pressure the vehicle emits exceeds the following levels:

Class of VehicleMaximum Allowable Sound Pressure Level (DBA)
Light duty 83
Gasoline-driven heavy duty 88
Motorcycles 91
Diesel-driven heavy duty 93

Determining whether a vehicle is too loud usually comes down to a police officer’s subjective opinion. Police are not required to carry equipment to measure sound levels and there is no requirement for police to empirically determine sound levels.

In this BC Supreme Court ruling, a motorcyclist was charged with having an unnecessarily loud exhaust noise after a police officer considered that the sound from the exhaust system of the motorcycle was “at least twice as loud as a stock exhaust system”. The officer used his own personal sound meter which he testified was to corroborate his suspicion. It produced a reading of 106 decibels – higher than the 91-decibel allowable level for motorcycles. The officer also determined the exhaust was an aftermarket pipe intended to produce a higher sound level than the stock system.

The motorcyclist argued that the evidence was subjective and the evidence from the sound meter should have been rejected because the sound metre was not accurate and not required.

The Supreme Court judge ruled that the question of the sound meter’s accuracy was less important because all the officer’s opinion was enough to uphold a ticket. The judge found that the requirements of s. 7A of the MVAR “did not involve an objective standard of whether or not the officer used the sound level metre accurately,” adding, the evidence relevant to the charge calls for a subjective test.

Mufflers

The MVAR states that exhaust mufflers must consist of a series of pipes or chambers that ensures gases are expelled without excessive noise. It also specifically prohibits mufflers or exhausts which increase noise or produce flames.

What to do if you receive a ticket for unnecessary noise?

If you receive a ticket for excessive noise, you will be given a fine of $109 and three penalty points. Police traffic law enforcement focuses on offences like distracted driving and excessive speed so they devote less time to unnecessary noise tickets. That does not mean police will not give them out.

We defend all kinds of traffic tickets, including unnecessary noise. If you receive one of these tickets you only have a limited amount of time to lodge an appeal. Call us on 604-608-1200 to find out how we can help you.

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