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New York Is Using Cameras With Microphones to Ticket Loud Cars

If you live in New York and drive a loud car, you could receive a notice from the city’s Department of Environmental Protection telling you your car is too loud. Not because a police officer caught your noisy car, but because a computer did.

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A photo of an official order from the New York City DEP was published to Facebook by a page called Lowered Congress on Monday, directed at a BMW M3 that may have been a bit too loud. The notice reads as follows:

I am writing to you because your vehicle has been identified as having a muffler that is not in compliance with Section 386 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, which prohibits excessive noise from motor vehicles. Your vehicle was recorded by a camera that takes a pictures of the vehicle and the license plate. In addition, a sound meter records the decibel level as the vehicle approaches and passes the camera.

The order goes on to tell the owner to bring their car to a location specified by the DEP—a sewage treatment plant, to be precise—for inspection. Show up, and you’ll have the opportunity to get the car fixed to avoid a fine—much like California’s “fix-it” ticket system. The document also informs the owner that if they fail to show up, they could face a maximum fine of $875, plus additional fines for continuing to ignore the summons.

A New York City DEP spokesman confirmed to Road & Track via email the system is part of a small pilot program that’s been running since September 2021. From the description above, it sounds like it works much like a speed camera that automatically records a violation and sends it to you in the mail by reading your license plate. Instead of a speed gun, this new system uses a strategically placed sound meter to record decibel levels on the road, matching it to a license plate using a camera.

The DEP tells us this new program is unrelated to Governor Kathy Hochul’s recent initiative to curb noise pollution in New York. In September 2021 she signed the SLEEP bill into law, raising fines for exhaust noise violation in the state from $150 to $1000—currently the highest in the nation.

The program will be reevaluated on June 30, according to the DEP. From there it’ll likely either be expanded or taken out of commission. We’ll be sure to follow up then to find out.

Aaron Brown contributed to this report.

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