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ASK A COP: Damn Those Deafeningly Loud Motorcycles

What's it take to give a ticket to unmuffled cycles that rattle the earth and destroy any chance of enjoying nature?

Patch file photo
Patch file photo

Every week Patch passes on your questions to law enforcement officers. Email yours to brad.kava@patch.com


Patch Reader: 

Hi I would like to know why CHP and local law enforcement agencies do not enforce muffler violations on those motorcyclists on Harley Davidson bikes seem to always ignore. Was behind one the other day in the fast lane doing 65 plus and he passed me like I was standing still! The noise almost broke the windows, He had no mufflers whatsoever, just straight pipes! Why is this allowed??

Answer from CHP officer Bradley Sadek:

Often we will observe a mechanical violation (ie: Illegal lighting, loud exhaust, tinted windows) and issue a "Fix-It ticket."  The unfortunate fact is, often those violators will correct the deficiency, get the citation signed off and paid for, then reinstall the equipment that got them the ticket in the first place.

It is also important to remember, just because a law exists, doesn't mean it isn't violated.  We get this question often relating to window tint. Just because motorists observe a lot of tinted windows doesn't mean we aren't enforcing that law, and the same is true for loud motorcycles and speeders.

With motorcycle exhaust, it can be a bit more tricky. Unfortunately our hands are tied up, just a bit.

(Info from AAA's website)

California Vehicle Code sections 27201 and 27202 established the following:

A noise limit of 92 decibels applies to any motorcycle manufactured before 1970. A noise limit of 88 decibels applies to motorcycles manufactured after 1969 and before 1973; 86 decibels applies to motorcycles manufactured after 1972 and before 1975; 83 decibels applies to motorcycles manufactured after 1974 and before 1986; 80 decibels applies to motorcycles manufactured after 1985.

Motorcycles registered in the state that are manufactured on or after 2013 or have an aftermarket exhaust system manufactured on or after 2013 must have the federal EPA noise emission label affixed to it in order to be operated, used, or parked in the state.

However, in order for us to enforce these regulations we are required to have a calibrated decibel meter! Psss..... we don't have calibrated decibel meters.

What we do have is section 27150 (a) which requires every motor vehicle to be equipped with "An adequate muffler in constant operation and properly maintained to prevent any excessive or unusual noise."

So what is excessive and unusual noise? If we can hear it from a distance of 50 feet, at freeway speeds, with our windows rolled up, and it is still uncomfortably loud, that is enough for us to stop that motorcycle for excessive exhaust noise.

David Vespremi January 26, 2014 at 06:51 PM
Please. An officer can visually note the absence of mufflers even with the bike parked - no need for this criteria of "hear it from a distance of 50 feet, at freeway speeds, with our windows rolled up, and it is still uncomfortably loud." The fact is, Asian or Hispanic drivers with legal aftermarket mufflers that conform to the letter of the law are far more likely (exponentially so) to be pulled over and cited for a modified exhaust system than a good 'ol boy on a Harley with no mufflers whatsoever setting off literally ever car alarm on the block. How many times have you seen the driver of an import car wearing earplugs because his vehicle is so loud? Same question, but now for Harley riders? Here's another example: non-white driver in an import car lowered (legally) an inch or two from its stock ride height compared to (generally white) guy in a truck lifted several feet above its stock ride height? Which is more obviously illegal - even without taking out a tape measure to confirm? Which is far more likely to cause imminent harm or peril to other motorists both in its propensity to be in a collision and the damage it would inflict if and when a collision occurs? Now which of the two is more likely to be cited for modified ride height? If these aren't both examples of profiling, I don't know what is.
Senor Gigante January 27, 2014 at 06:27 PM
It's ridiculous. I never knew how many Harleys there were in Pacifica until we moved up off Fassler Avenue. They should be cited; it's extremely annoying and is especially annoying early on a weekend morning or late at night.
Aquib Talib January 30, 2014 at 07:25 PM
I wear earplugs when I ride my motorcycle and I don't have a loud exhaust system. I wear them because of wind noise. I imagine if you need earplugs INSIDE your car, you must be really loud, maybe that is why those guys get tickets. I detest loud motorcycles. People inside the industry are working with Government to quell this issue, but it will not happen overnight. We (motorcyclists) are in need of culture change. Perhaps the first poster needs to dial down his obvious bigotry.

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