Government to 'banish boy racers' with new noise-detecting cameras

Drivers with noisy exhausts could face fines up to £50 per offence, while some cars already break the legal limits...

Mercedes-AMG A45 front

Drivers of excessively noisy cars are to be targeted by a new form of traffic camera that tracks the noise made by passing vehicles.

The cameras automatically detect vehicles that breach the legal noise limit of 72dBA (A-weighted decibels), and forward evidence to the local police for review. Drivers found guilty face a £50 fine per offence.

That figure of 72dBA is approximately as loud as a vacuum cleaner, while levels above 80dBA can cause hearing damage over prolonged periods. This limit is set to be reduced to 68dBA – approximately as noisy as a loud conversation – in 2026.

Gatso speed camera

However, it is unclear how the cameras will differentiate between the background noise levels on a particular street or day, and those caused by a specific vehicle. It is likely for this reason that footage of identified vehicles will be sent to the police for review in the initial trial phase of the plan.

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced a £300,000 trial of these cameras in four areas across England and Wales. Those four areas are to be constituencies in which MPs request the technology, but they have not yet been determined.

A competition has also been launched to find Britain’s noisiest street so that it can be prioritised for camera installation and later trials.

Cars in traffic

Should the initial trial prove successful, further testing with greater investment is likely to follow before the cameras are given final approval by the DfT for wide-spread deployment across the UK.

At this point, the process of reviewing evidence and issuing fines would most likely be automated, as it is with speed cameras. 

Andrew Pearce, director at Atkins-Jacobs, the firm running the trial, said the plans would allow authorities to "automate noise enforcement, and get on top of the problem without using up valuable police resources”.

The DfT says noise pollution costs England £10 billion per year due to productivity losses (caused by disturbed sleep) and detrimental health effects, such as raised blood pressure.

Kia e-Niro in London traffic

It also pointed to geographical inequalities; complaints about noise were most common in more economically deprived areas, with those in less affluent areas three times more likely to have problems with noise pollution.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We want those in Britain’s noisiest streets, who are kept up at night by unbearable revving engines and noisy exhausts, to come forward with the help of volunteer areas to test and perfect the latest innovative technology.”

He added: “For too long, rowdy drivers have been able to get away with disturbing our communities with illegal noisy vehicles.

“It’s time we clamp down on this nuisance, banish the boy racer and restore peace and quiet to local streets.”

Volkswagen T-Roc R Akropovic exhaust

It is currently illegal in the UK to modify your car’s exhaust to make it louder than it was when it left the factory. Other factors such as excessive revs (approaching the ‘red line’ on the rev counter) or a hole in the exhaust can also bring your car above legal noise limits.

Noise is also a factor considered in an MOT test; if a car is perceived by mechanics to be unreasonably loud at 2500rpm, it fails. 

According to the Vehicle Certification Agency, the Mercedes-AMG C63 S performance car emitted 74dBA during emissions testing. This means it breaches the legal limit. 

Mercedes-AMG C63 S front

Most cars, however, were much less noisy in testing. For example, the Toyota Corolla 1.8 family car was rated at just 67dBA. The Toyota GR Yaris hot hatchback was quieter still, recording 65dBA.

Less powerful cars that need to be revved hard to accelerate briskly, such as the 75bhp Ford Fiesta 1.1, still fall within legal limits. The aforementioned Fiesta registered at 67dBA in official tests.

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