UK to trial new ‘noise camera’ system to combat excessively loud vehicles

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The UK Government has commissioned a prototype ‘noise camera’ system to be tested at several locations across the country over the coming months in a crackdown on drivers who disturb communities with vehicles that are breaking legal noise limits.

New camera technology to be trialed by the Department for Transport (DfT) aims to measure the sound levels of passing vehicles to detect those that are breaking the law on noise limits, and could use automated license plate recognition (ALPR) technology to help enforce the law by prosecuting the registered owner (or nominated driver) in the same way that excess speed is enforced. The system could also help to catch those who rev car or motorcycles engines beyond legal limits at traffic lights or other location, making life a misery for those who live nearby. Studies have found that exposure to noise can have significant physical and mental health implications, with heart attacks, high blood pressure, Type-2 diabetes and stress all linked to long-term contact with loud environments.

Currently, noise enforcement is mainly reactive and relies on subjective judgement. Recent research commissioned by the DfT, and carried out by the Atkins and Jacobs consultancies, found that a noise camera system could help tackle extremely noisy vehicles that breach legal noise limits. The government has commissioned a prototype noise camera to be tested at several locations over the next seven months, and if the trials are successful, recommendations will be made to further develop the system across the UK.

The trials of the new technology will determine whether the legal noise limit has been breached by taking into account the class and speed of the vehicle relative to the location of the noise camera. The trial is not intended to target law-abiding drivers, but those who are flouting laws around noise. All vehicles must legally meet strict noise limits before they are allowed on the road. Once a vehicle is in service, exhausts and silencers must by law be maintained in good working order and not altered to increase noise.

“Noise pollution makes the lives of people in communities across Britain an absolute misery and has very serious health impacts. This is why I am determined to crack down on the nuisance drivers who blight our streets,” explained UK Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling. “New technology will help us lead the way in making our towns and cities quieter, and I look forward to seeing how these exciting new cameras could work.”

CEO of the Motorcycle Industry Association, Tony Campbell, commented, “With growing pressure on the environment, including noise pollution, illegal exhausts fitted by some riders attract unwanted attention to the motorcycle community and do nothing to promote the many benefits motorcycles can offer. All manufacturers produce new motorcycles that follow strict regulations regarding noise and emissions and we welcome these trials as a potential way of detecting excessive noise in our community.”

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James joined the Traffic Technology International team in 2017. Previously he was Assistant Editor on an engineering title for several years and has worked for various other trade magazines before that. James is happily married and has a young daughter who keeps him busy.

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