Tim Schewe

Drivesmart column: Lack of mufflers

Why don’t the police do anything about noisy exhaust systems?

By Tim Schewe

There sometimes seems to be two types of people when it comes to the sounds emitted by vehicle exhaust systems: those who hate it and those who try to balance calling attention to themselves yet not provoke a response from traffic law enforcement.

Why don’t the police do anything about noisy exhaust systems? Let’s take a quick look at this accusation and see if it has merit. In 2019, the last year ICBC has published traffic ticket statistics for, police issued the following:

Violation Law Number of Tickets Sanction

• 22 Inadequate Muffler tickets under section 7.03 MVAR, $109 fine, no points, no record

• 800 Unnecessary Noise tickets under section 7A.01 MVAR, $109 fine, 3 points, record entry

• 3,500 Defective Vehicle tickets under section 219 (1) MVA, $109 fine, no points, record entry

The last category, Defective Vehicle, includes all types of vehicle equipment violations, not just those related to the exhaust system. It is up to the officer to choose which section to write the violation under.

So, some enforcement is taking place. Keep in mind that no matter how irritated you might be, this noise is a nuisance rather than a safety hazard. Given a choice between the two, the safety related violations must be a priority for enforcement.

There are exhaust system standards to follow and they are set out in paragraphs 22 and 27 of the Schedule to Division 7, MVAR.

Decibel limits are prescribed, but the standard is for testing in an inspection station and the police are working at the roadside, most often without the benefit of a measuring device.

When a decibel meter is not available to take the measurements to see if a vehicle complies, the opinion of an officer 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.”

It’s not simply a matter of writing a ticket and carrying on with the patrol. Officers must be prepared to justify everything that they write in traffic court.

In my experience, a conviction for not having a muffler at all is difficult to obtain, and an unnecessary noise conviction based on the opinion of an officer is very unlikely. I have never had a civilian witness available to give evidence, and perhaps that is what is missing for a conviction.

The outcome of a trial can be mixed.

At the conclusion of one, the presiding Justice of the Peace found the driver guilty and commented, “You are not a criminal, you are nothing but a social pest!”

On the other hand, I also saw a provincial court judge dismiss a ticket where the motorcycle involved was equipped with straight pipes, no muffler at all. He acquitted the motorcyclist because he felt that it simply wasn’t a matter that was important enough to be tried in his court.

Another avenue for enforcement to consider is the use of a Notice & Order #2. Designated Inspection Facilities are required to have a decibel meter and use it as part of an inspection. Inspectors will also insure that all of the necessary exhaust components are installed and functional.

There are significant penalties for ignoring the order and it will also discover and require the repair of any other safety defects that might be present.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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