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Gloucestershire Business News

Noise cameras on the way?

Drivers and bikers hitting the loud pedal may soon face a swift fine, according to likely findings from the Department for Transport's trial of cutting edge 'noise cameras'.

Trials of the kit which could silence superloud motors and help bring peace and quiet to plagued neighbourhoods in Gloucestershire have been held since October in selected counties of the UK - including in neighbouring South Glos.

And as the DfT concludes its £300,000 tests of the equipment, the RAC has already jumped into the debate by carrying out its own research, which shows that the overwhelming majority want a crackdown on motoring's loud louts.

Six-in-10 drivers (58%) questioned by the RAC said they would be in favour of so-called 'noise cameras' being widely used while only a fifth (22%) were against the idea, with a similar proportion (20%) unsure.

The cameras, which are triggered by a number of microphones, can pinpoint vehicles exceeding the UK's 74-decibel legal limit as they pass by. Pictures of vehicle numberplates, together with recordings of the vehicle noise, are then used by local police to identify and fine drivers. Trials zones included Bradford, Great Yarmouth, Birmingham and South Gloucestershire.

In the RAC's own research, 34% said they regularly hear loud revving engines or excessively loud exhausts. This rose to nearly half of drivers in London (47%) and to 40% in Wales and Scotland. And when asked for their opinions about whether the current £50 on-the-spot fine for a vehicle breaching the 74-decibel limit is appropriate, drivers were split.

Four-in-10 (39%) felt the fine had been set at the right level, but 37% disagreed, and a quarter (24%) were undecided. Of those who felt the fine wasn't severe enough, 43% thought it should carry a £200 fine and a driving ban until the exhaust was found to comply with the legal decibel limit.

Road noise has been proved to contribute to health problems, including heart attacks, strokes and dementia, yet there is no current requirement for MOT testers to use decibel meters when checking exhaust noise levels.

The government estimates the annual social cost of urban road noise, including lost productivity from sleep disturbance and health costs, is up to £10bn.

RAC head of policy Simon Williams said: "Our research with drivers shows there is a very strong desire to put an end to the scourge of excessively noisy vehicles that disturb the peace all around the country.

"It's plain wrong that those who have fitted their cars with modified exhausts, some motorbike riders and supercar owners can currently just get away with making an unacceptable amount of noise. Fortunately, the Department for Transport's recent noise camera trials may provide the solution.

"There is no good reason why cars and motorbikes should make so much noise, so the sooner effective camera enforcement can be put in place the better."

Roads Minister Richard Holden said: "Boy racers are an anti-social menace and we have extensively trialled noise camera technology over the past year. We are analysing data from the trials and will update in due course on any future measures which will help bring peace and tranquillity back to our towns, cities and villages."

However, the issue of regulating traffic-generated noise is double-edged: disability campaigners have urged the government to also ensure that the growing popularity of hybrid and electric cars does not impact safety for other road users.

The current EU regulation to which the UK is signed up is for electric cars to have a minimum sound level of 56 decibels. Because electromagnetic power production is virtually soundless, this sound level has to be producted artificially.

But since this law came into effect in July 2021 (with no retrospoective regulation for older electric cars, which often have no acoustic warning), some campaigners have warned that drivers are switching the warning sounds off.

In November 2021, the Royal National Institute for the Blind compiled a report which stated that the proliferation of near-silent electric cars and hybrid cars when traversing urban areas in electric mode, was becoming a nightmare for blind pedestrians.

The report was followed by an move from the DoT to make it illegal for car makers to build new models with a pause switch on the system. That law comes into place on September 1st.

Andrea Gordon, of Guide Dogs Cymru, said: "Please, we need that sound. Imagine how it would be for you if you were trying to cross the road wearing a blindfold and then perhaps you'll think again."

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