May 10, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
More than a dozen councilmembers– including three from Queens–have introduced legislation that would ramp up fines for drivers of noisy vehicles.
The bill—sponsored by 17 councilmembers including Queens representatives Sandra Ung, Linda Lee and Lynn C. Schulman—would double the existing penalties for motorists who drive with loud exhausts or excessively honk their horns. Fines for drivers using illegal sound devices on their vehicles would also be increased two-fold.
The legislation aims to tackle noise pollution by targeting disorderly drivers generating ear-splitting sounds. Minimum fines would start at $300 and climb as high as $6,000 for repeat offenders.
Ung, who represents District 20 in Flushing, said that hiking the fines would send a message that unruly behavior by motorists will not be tolerated.
“Drivers who make illegal and excessively loud retrofits to their vehicles and then speed through our communities late at night have no business on our streets,” Ung said.
“Excessive noise isn’t just a quality-of-life nuisance, it also causes serious health issues due to stress and loss of sleep, as well as negatively impacts our children.”
The lawmakers, citing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said that excessive noise can cause countless other adverse health effects including high blood pressure, speech interference and hearing loss.
Under the legislation, drivers whose exhausts or mufflers can be heard more than 150 feet away would be hit with a civil penalty of up to $1,050 for a first offense – up from $525 — increasing to as much as $3,150 for a third violation.
Drivers who honk their horns for reasons other than an emergency will also be targeted with a fine of up to $2,000 for a first offense – up from $1,000 — to a maximum of $6,000 for a third violation.
Lastly, drivers using air horns installed on a vehicle could be hit with fines up to $3,950 for multiple violations.
The lawmakers say that their legislation complements the 2021 passage of the New York State SLEEP Act, which raised the penalties for auto shops that perform any illegal modifications of mufflers and exhaust systems that allow cars and motorcycles to become noisier.
Lee said that these laws seek to bring some peace and quiet back to neighborhoods.
“Excessive and obnoxious vehicle noise is the bane of families’ existence across Eastern Queens,” said Lee, who represents District 23.
“These vehicles and their drivers are causing real harm to our environment, health, and overall quality of life.”