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DriveSmart BC – Enforcement of Laws Concerning Noisy Vehicles

The question this week revolves around vehicle noise in quiet neighbourhoods. Why don’t the municipalities do more about it asks my correspondent. This may be a case of the squeaky wheel not getting the grease!

We all like to enjoy the peace and quiet of our property without being disturbed by loud noise. There is good reason for that because noise that disturbs is bad for our health, both physical and mental. While we may tolerate occasional short duration noise that is not too loud, our urban environment can be continuously noisy at all times of the day.

There is ample legislation in place to control noise from vehicles. The Criminal Code, Motor Vehicle Act and municipal bylaws all provide rules and penalties for those that fail to follow them. It is up to police and bylaw enforcement to deal with those who fail to consider others and make life miserable.

No person shall start, drive, turn or stop any motor vehicle, or accelerate the vehicle engine while the vehicle is stationary, in a manner which causes any loud and unnecessary noise in or from the engine, exhaust system or the braking system, or from the contact of the tires with the roadway. This quote from the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations (MVAR) pretty much covers every aspect of vehicle noise, regardless of it’s source.

There is no requirement that test equipment be used to determine if a vehicle is generally too loud. The MVAR provides that the opinion of an inspector as to whether the engine and exhaust noise is greater than that made by other vehicles in good condition of comparable size, horsepower, piston displacement or compression ratio shall determine whether exhaust gases are expelled with excessive noise.

Having said that, the MVAR does provide maximum sound pressure levels for various types of motor vehicles and they may be tested using a decibel meter.

The real stumbling block here is the willingness of enforcement personnel to devote time to the issue and having the courts convict violators.

Traffic law enforcement focuses on drivers whose behaviour causes collisions. There is some time in an officer’s shift for activities that don’t directly deal with harm reduction but the current aims are to curtail impaired and distracted driving, excessive speed and insure the use of occupant restraints. Don’t expect much time to be devoted to your noise issues.

I once sat through an entire day of provincial court waiting for the dispute of a ticket that I had written to the rider of a motorcycle that did not have a muffler. The hearing was brief and the judge dismissed the ticket as the last matter on the list. I spoke to him outside the courtroom afterwards and was told that the matter really wasn’t important to him in the context of the other trials he had to hear daily.

I have not policed in a municipality where bylaw enforcement officers dealt with noise from moving vehicles. While that does not mean that this does not occur, it does show the importance that some municipalities attach to your problem. They too have more pressing issues to deal with.

While we may lose sleep over noisy vehicles around our homes, chances are the most effective way to deal with the situation is to roll over and go back to sleep.

To comment or learn more, please visit

Constable Tim Schewe (Retired)

DriveSmartBC: Where better than average drivers satisfy their curiosity.

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