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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?

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.

RM January 27, 2014 at 11:22 AM
What a pansy-azz response. So you CHOOSE to not enforce the law because why? Because some of you guys are the problematic motorcycle owners yourselves, which creates a conflict of interest. Dang what a disappointing response, this will take me a while to accept.
Force Ten January 27, 2014 at 01:34 PM
Loud pipes save lives. I don't ride anymore…and when I did my pipes were stock…but I can understand why louder is good on a bike. I have almost been killed many times by motorist that are only looking for other cars…and I often wished I had got louder pipes. I'm sure the 5 seconds the OP was inconvenienced with the noise was terrible…but imagine how terrible they would have felt if they killed someone because they didn't see or "hear" them? We are bending over backwards for bicyclists while they hog a whole lane forcing us into oncoming traffic to go around them…while they give us "the finger"…how about giving the motorcyclists a break?
Marlys Balsamo January 27, 2014 at 01:55 PM
My dad, a former SC fire captain, rode, as do I, his daughter. Until people stop texting and ignoring bikes, the louder the pipes the better. Too bad you were inconvenienced by a few seconds of noise, but that noise saves lives!
RM January 27, 2014 at 07:56 PM
I see, Marlys. So, if I choose to transport myself in a particular way - let's say, hopping on one foot - I should have the right to make as much noise as I want and then use the excuse that it saves lives? See the hole in your logic? Why should everyone other than you be disturbed by your loud bike just because you want to ride? I'm guessing you think along the lines of this: "do whatever the hell you want in the world as long as it doesn't bother other people" - right? You sound like a Republican so I'm generalizing here of course, but assuming you do subscribe to that line of thinking, is this just a special exception? Yes, do whatever you want, ride your motorcycle (like I do), but why does it have to be a nuisance for everyone?
Marlys Balsamo January 28, 2014 at 12:45 PM
Don't insult me by calling me a republican. But until cagers start paying attention to the road, I will stand by the fact that loud pipes save lives!
RM January 28, 2014 at 02:35 PM
Fair enough. :)
Phillip Bailey January 28, 2014 at 06:26 PM
Dear CHP officer Bradley Sadek: I'm not sure your tinted window response is really that accurate. I would like to know if LEO's ever go to tinting shops to educated them that knowledge is power etc. I would say that 2 out of every 7 cars owned by todays youth have windows darker than the law allows. Here's an example....baseball bat "rolling" is against all Youth, HS and College by laws but as you know it still happens. Youth sports is now attacking those who do the bat rolling (hot bats) instead of going after the then owner of the bat. Make sense Officer?
Phillip Bailey January 28, 2014 at 06:27 PM
@Force Ten Question: What about the bikes that are so loud the set off several alarm systems in one fell swoop at parking lots?
RM January 29, 2014 at 09:54 AM
Phillip - don't you understand? The more of a nuisance you are, the better your chance of staying alive. I think I'd like to rubber-band the trigger on an air horn into the "on" position, sit outside their house and when they come out to complain explain that I'm safer as a result and sorry but it's my God given right to bother everyone to protect myself.
Phillip Bailey February 07, 2014 at 02:00 PM
RM wrote:Phillip - don't you understand? The more of a nuisance you are, the better your chance of staying alive. I think I'd like to rubber-band the trigger on an air horn into the "on" position, sit outside their house and when they come out to complain explain that I'm safer as a result and sorry but it's my God given right to bother everyone to protect myself. RM - now THAT was funny. Most likely went over Miss Potty Mouths head. She'll hang with the fellas down at the Lariat bar and SCREAM "don't call me a Republican" - rather than engage in civil discourse - and she'll throw stones instead and type S-You Phillip....blah blah...
Phillip Bailey February 07, 2014 at 07:46 PM
We shall see when loud-a$$-bikes drive up and down Chestnut Street in San Carlos - how the locals react...

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