California could have sound-sensing cameras

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By DerrickCalvert

New York’s participation with a sound-sensing camera program was first reported a few months back. These cameras were installed to measure vehicles that exceed the state’s legal decibel limit. This is a maximum of 82% for cars and 85% for motorcycles. The cameras take a photo of the vehicle that is not complying with the law and issue a fine. We had read at the time that Knoxville, Tennessee was planning to trial a similar program with the same Intelligent Instruments cameras as New York. Autoweek reports that California could soon be the next state to adopt such a pilot program if the current version of state Senate Bill SB 1079 is approved by the governor.

The Senate bill continues where the 2018 Assembly Bill ended. The law was signed into law in the first week of 2019. It didn’t alter the legal limits for exhaust sound, but it did change how enforcement is done. These levels depend on the year of the vehicle and its weight. Motorcycles made after 1985 have an 80 dB limit. Instead of a “fix it ticket”, which allows the offender to correct the situation within a specified time frame and avoid a penalty, the law established a fine schedule that applies on the first offense. No more swapping mufflers or getting signed-off at your local station.

SB 1079 would require the camera program and would also revise enforcement. Sensing equipment could help everyone involved, even enthusiasts who are upset by the whole situation. The current law states that measurements must be taken according the Society of Automotive Engineers standard J1169. However, police can “exercise their judgment.” The bill language names six California cities as the recipients of the program. However, it does not identify those cities. The locations chosen would have to place the cameras with “sound activated enforcement” on the roads they choose, and also provide signage warning drivers about the impending measurement zone. The fines would be paid into a fund to pay for traffic-calming measures like speed bumps or bike lanes.

The Senate bill returns to what is effectively a fix it ticket for the first violation, with the miscreants just getting a warning. The bill would allow cities to set their own fees within certain limits. However, they will be charged with creating payment plans, hardship waivers, and deferment plans in order to help those ticketed.

SB 1079 is still in California Senate. It was recently ordered for a third read. The law will be effective on January 1, 2023 if it passes the Senate and Assembly.