What Are ‘Noise Cameras’ and Will Your City Be Getting Them?
Speed cameras have been around for decades. In some places, they seem to be going out of favor, but there are plenty still around. Now a companion device that helps police is showing up around the world to catch vehicles that are “too loud.” These new systems are called “noise cameras.” It snaps shots of noisy stuff along with decibel numbers to prove it.
In the U.S., noise-detecting devices are already in use in New York, and even Knoxville, Tennessee, and California is considering them as well. In Europe, France has been using a noise camera system that looks like it will soon be spreading. They are now showing up in the U.K. after years of tests. If the tests prove to be successful, a gang of other cities there are ready to add them.
These cameras work somewhat like speed cameras. Microphones pick up sound over a certain decibel and track it, then photograph it. Modified exhaust or motorcycles revving engines get their picture, which clearly picks up the license plate. This information and a fine are sent to the owner of the vehicle.
What is the legal limit in decibels?
The legal limit in the U.K. for noise from vehicles is 74 decibels. In the U.S., the EPA says that between 90 and 94 decibels are the legal limit for noise. But in 2026 the legal threshold goes down to 68 dB. For comparison, a jackhammer produces 100 decibels. So 90 dB is consistent with lawnmowers, hairdryers, or blenders.
The U.K. has already spent almost $340 million on the systems it used for testing. During the testing, it also determined which areas showed the most need. So they’re all lined up in anticipation of the street testing being successful.
“These new cameras will help the police clamp down on those who break the legal noise limits or use illegally modified exhausts to make excessive noise in our communities,” transportation secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan told the media. “We will be working closely with the local authorities and police to share any findings, and I hope this technology paves the way for quieter, peaceful streets across the country.”
What harm does loud exhaust have?
Noise from automobiles and motorcycles has been an issue for decades. It was open exhaust on high-performance cars in the early days. Now it is the overly-rich turbocharged cars popping during deceleration. For those in authority, eradication is the goal.
The U.K. government says that excessive street noise is responsible for the loss of productivity costing over $11 billion. Stress, strokes, and dementia are the health issues associated with excessive noise.