Tim Schewe

Drivesmart column: The problem of deafening motorcycles

Why don’t the police charge drivers of motorcycles with no or ineffective mufflers?

By Tim Schewe

I’ve been looking forward to eating a meal on our back deck and enjoying the warm sunshine outdoors for a while now. Last evening was the first comfortable opportunity so my wife and I took advantage of it. The breeze was rustling the branches, the birds were chirping, the frogs were peeping and the motorcycles were rumbling.

Why don’t the police charge drivers of motorcycles with no or ineffective mufflers? I’m a bit surprised that these seasonal complaints haven’t started showing up in the DriveSmartBC inbox yet.

For enforcement personnel, the situation of no muffler at all is probably the easiest to deal with. A quick examination of the pipe will reveal no obstruction and a ticket can be issued. The explanation in court is a simple one and the traffic court justice is assured of the situation making a conviction more easily obtained.

Having an inadequate muffler is where the difficulty lies at roadside. While the regulations are clear that the opinion of the inspector is sufficient, the traffic court justice is not so easily assured and without an independent witness or a measurement with a decibel meter a conviction is not nearly as easily obtained.

The next problem is that decibel levels are specified for an inspection facility, not the side of the highway where the police operate. The levels would serve as a guideline but are not definitive.

Tickets issued under the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations (MVAR) for exhaust system violations specifically are few and far between. That said, about 3,600 tickets are issued under section 219(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act (MVA), the “catch all” section for vehicle defects each year.

Some municipalities have incorporated noise rules into their traffic bylaws that may be used instead of the MVA and MVAR.

Instead of issuing a violation ticket, police may choose to issue an inspection order instead. Here’s what the inspection manual that guides a Designated Inspection Facility says about motorcycle noise emissions:

“The opinion of an inspector as to whether the engine and exhaust noise emission 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.

“Must be comparable to OEM and confirmed with decibel meter.

“• equipped with any noise-enhancing device

“• confirm noise emission level with decibel meter for any vehicle with non-OEM, modified or altered exhaust system”

ICBC does not publish data on vehicle inspection orders #1 and #2 issued by police, so there is no indication of how often this tool is used to try and solve the problem.

Having a loud exhaust to some riders is either a safety or a lifestyle issue. “Loud pipes save lives” is a common justification but according to the Canada MotoGuide, they do not. The majority of collisions are frontal ‘look but didn’t see’ incidents.

Regardless of the action that the police might take, sometimes the exhaust is not going to be repaired, or will be repaired long enough to pass inspection and then put back the way it was in the first instance.

Oh, and for the record, the police DO deal with motorcycles that have loud exhaust systems.

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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