04 December 2007

Sound Objectivity

My good friend over at Cross•Spectrum commented on yesterday's blog, and also opined on his own blog today.
The points that herb makes are excellent. (I wish I'd made some of them myself, particularly the one about the ANSI S12.18 standard...)
In repsonse, I'd first like to point out that my Baby/Bathwater blog should not be interpreted as my being in opposition of "nuisance"-style noise ordinances. Indeed, I believe that both objective and subjective ordinances are necessary. If the neighbor's loud party is keeping you awake at 1 a.m., I agree that there should be no need for the officer to have to dig out his sound level meter in order to issue a citation to the offender(s). Common sense should prevail.
But there are myriad instances where lack of an objective ordinance can hurt more than help, just like eliminating speed limits would hurt more than help.
My main point is that objective sound level limits should not be thrown aside simply because motorcycle noise is difficult for a law enforcement officer to measure. This is throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
Also, most people these days can operate a digital camera. IMO, the best way to support a noise citation for a loud motorcycle is simply to photograph the offender's exhaust when the citation is being issued. Since straight pipes or modified exhausts are illegal, it should be an easy enough thing to prove without any sound level measurement whatsoever! "It was excessively loud, and here's a picture of the offender's exhaust with the manufacturer's noise control measures having been removed."
If the offender really wants to fight the citation, a standard "pass-by" test can prove violation beyond a reasonable doubt. I would gladly offer up my services to conduct this test for my local law enforcement agency for a modest and reasonable fee. (Certainly less than the amount of the fine that would be incurred.) Further, I could probably be convinced to volunteer to train one or more law enforcement officers as to the proper methods to conduct the test, thereby saving them future costs. Measuring sound is difficult, no question. But a simplified version of the "pass-by" test - one that can prove violation without having to prepare a 20-page report (or follow an 18-page standard to the letter) - doesn't require an advanced degree in physics to conduct.
And once the word got out that the local police are able to perform a test that proves violation beyond a reasonable doubt, the loud pipes would begin to go the way of leaded gasoline.
At least, IMHO...but maybe I'm just too idealistic...


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