Noise cameras: why are trials of acoustic cameras taking place, and what are the exhaust noise rules?

A trial of roadside “noise cameras” that can detect illegally loud vehicles is being launched to clamp down on antisocial drivers

A trial of roadside “noise cameras” that can detect illegally loud vehicles is being launched to clamp down on antisocial drivers.

The Department for Transport will install the noise-detecting devices in four areas following a search to find the locations most affected by excessively loud cars, motorbikes and other vehicles.

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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he wanted the £300,000 trial the “banish the boy racers” who blight communities.

The acoustic cameras can detect vehicles exceeding the legal noise limit and preliminarily tests have shown they can identify the individual vehicles responsible using automatic number plate recognition. They can then send real-time reports to police. It is hoped this evidence can lead to more targeted enforcement in the worst affected areas.

The cameras will be able to identify vehicles which exceed legal noise limits

Vehicle engines and exhausts are not allowed to exceed 74 decibels and drivers can be fined £50 for breaking this limit but police often struggle to gather evidence.

As part of the trial, the DfT has launched a competition to find the noisiest streets in England and Wales, where the cameras will be installed and tested.

Mr 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.

“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.”

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The DfT said research has linked long-term noise pollution to physical and mental health problems such as heart attacks, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and stress.

People living in deprived areas are up to three times more likely to complain about noise than those in less disadvantaged locations, according to the Government’s recent Levelling Up White Paper.

However, Britain’s richest borough, Kensington and Chelsea, is among the only places to currently have noise cameras. The exclusive London district is famous for its supercars and for complaints about the noise they make. Between June 2021 and February 2022, the devices detected almost 10,000 vehicles exceeding the noise limit.

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Acoustic cameras are already in use in Kensington to tackle the noise caused by supercars in the borough

AA president Edmund King said: “Excessive noise from modified cars used by ‘street racers’ or ‘pimp my ride’ racers are normally associated with defined areas where these individuals meet.

“Whilst this new noise technology can be targeted at known hotspots, it remains to be seen whether this just encourages the racers to find a street with no cameras.

“There is no doubt that anti-social excessive noise can cause health problems so targeting the culprits will be welcomed by local residents.”

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John Stewart, who chairs campaign group UK Noise Association, said: “For many years we have had complaints from residents about excessively noisy vehicles.

“They will all be hoping to prove that their street is one of the noisiest so they can get the first batch of cameras.”