With the government’s continuous crackdown on speed rates on our UK roads, they are now introducing noise cameras. Drivers are currently facing hefty fines if they add to noise pollution and if caught by the planned range of acoustic cameras attached to speed cameras across the UK.

In 2021 Westminster council successfully trialled phase one and caught cars with over 110 decibels. This is equal to being front row in a heavy metal concert or working in a steel foundry. These were the very first camera-enabled fines for excessively loud vehicles in the UK. There are now over seven trials in place, and the data show that it is an issue that needs to be rolled out nationwide. The Department of Transport is currently searching for the noisiest areas across England and Wales to roll out phase two, showing how the government has listened to the complaints about loud exhausts by developing the project.

Vehicle noises, especially those with very loud exhausts, will eventually die out with the introduction of quieter electric vehicles on our roads. Still, until then, it is essential to understand that noise pollution is an authentic problem in some areas and can land the driver unwanted fines and increased insurance rates.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps stated, “it is time to crack down on rowdy drivers and bring back peace to our local communities from illegal, noisy vehicles.”

What is a noise camera, and how they work

Much like the speed camera we are all used to, the noise, or acoustic cameras, will be placed in areas that need less noise pollution. They are fitted with ANPR number plate recognition and fines issued similar to the speeding penalties received by thousands each year. The Police have had the power to deal with noisy cars for a while, but it has been very hard to gather the evidence to charge a driver. With the introduction of the acoustic camera, this should be much easier and more of an automatic process, leaving the Police force to deal with much more critical day-to-day occurrences. Similar trials have also been successfully carried out in Canada and the United Arab Emirates.

Why are noise cameras being introduced?

The UK scheme for noisy drivers was rolled out in 2019 and was mainly handheld noise camera technology. These were primarily to help to eradicate nuisance car drivers and motorbikes revving engines in residential and rural areas. Now the street cameras are ready to be launched, local MPs have been asked to submit applications for their areas. There has been at least £300,000 of funding from the government so far, and the more they are helping local areas, the more funding will be found.

The Department of transport has researched the impact of high noise exposure and the negative effect on the physical and mental health of citizens in these areas. It has also been found that heart attacks, high blood pressure due to stress and also type 2 diabetes can be linked to noise pollution.

What are the penalties if the driver has a loud car exhaust in the UK

Presently the existing noise pollution laws will mean that motorists with very nosy exhausts can be given an on-the-spot fine of £50 and run the risk of their vehicle being taken off the road until the noise problem has been resolved. If caught by a noise camera on the street, you will find a fine via the post on your doorstep, much the same as a conventional speeding notice.

Do noise cameras work in reducing loud car exhausts

The London borough of Kensington and Chelsea rolled out its own noise-camera pilot scheme after being unable to join the original Department of Transport programme. This followed over 35 complaints of revving engines with excessive noise between only two months of June and August 2020. Slone Street in Chelsea was said to be a magnet for Ferrari and Lamborghini drivers who like to cruise the area revving engines. Putting a Public Space Protection Order in place gave local Police officers the right to issue notices for excessively noisy vehicles.

Between June 2021 and February 2022, over 10,000 vehicles triggered the noise cameras and also saw that the BMWs were most often breaking the sound level threshold. With fines ranging from £100 to £2,500 and the power to seize vehicles of relentless offenders, it is helping to reduce these issues.

What is the exhaust noise limit?

The legal limit in the UK for exhaust noise is 74 decibels, equivalent to a toilet flush. Before the introduction of the acoustic camera, Police were often left to their own judgment to decide if a car breached the noise limit. The trails for noise cameras had not set a pre-arranged noise level, but those used in London were calibrated to catch drivers generating 80 decibels or more. This is equivalent to an alarm clock, showing some tolerance before they are triggered.

Can I report a loud car exhaust?

The quickest way to report a noisy car exhaust would be to call 101 or complain to your local council. Still, if it is a neighbour’s car, it may be wise to resolve the issues amicably with them to avoid a massive dispute that could lead to ill feelings in the neighbourhood.

Does a loud exhaust impact on car insurance

Now that noise levels are law, drivers who have modified their cars by adding powerful new exhausts could find significant implications on their car insurance and face the risk of being tracked by noise cameras. The additions to a car making it more powerful or valuable, will lead to higher insurance costs. This is because they could potentially be more attractive to car thieves and more expensive to repair if in an accident. If you do not report any modifications to your car to the insurer, it will result in rejected claims and possible further fines for driving without adequate insurance. Speaking to your insurers before continuing with any work like this on your vehicle is wise.

Electric cars and the noise compared to petrol and diesel cars

Too quiet is really not good!

Since the introduction of electric vehicles to the UK, a school of thought says they are more dangerous because you can’t hear them as well as a combustion engine car. They barely make a noise at all. This could put pedestrians at risk when they are looking to cross a road. Visually impaired pedestrians being the most at risk. Because of this, regulations now state that all EVs, Electric Vehicles, have to have an artificial sound of at least 40 decibels, the equivalent of a humming fridge, so pedestrians can hear them.

This is great news and will help to continue to improve the environment by reducing emissions as well as noise pollution.

These noise regulations will make life much better for those who live near busy roads as well as the small communities that are tired of the lack of respect from bikers and boy racers taking advantage of open rural roads.