DfT trials ‘noise cameras’ to tackle noisy vehicles

The Department for Transport has announced that it will be trialling new ‘noise camera’ technology to crack down on vehicles breaking legal noise limits.

The government’s new ‘noise cameras’ will use microphones to measure the sound levels of passing vehicles to detect vehicles making excessive noise.

They will also use automated number plate recognition to identify drivers in the same way speed cameras do.

DfT announced the trial after research found that the technology could help tackle law-breaking drivers who disturb local communities.

The transport secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘Noise pollution makes the lives of people in communities across Britain an absolute misery and has very serious health impacts. This is why I am determined to crack down on the nuisance drivers who blight our streets.

‘New technology will help us lead the way in making our towns and cities quieter, and I look forward to seeing how these exciting new cameras could work.’

The DfT’s new ‘noise camera’ technology may help punish drivers who illegally alter their car exhausts to make more noise. Image credit: Santeri Viinamäki/CC BY-SA 4.0

Studies have shown that excessive noise exposure can have major negative impacts on physical and mental health, with long-term contact with loud environments linked with heart attacks, high blood pressure, stress and type 2 diabetes.

Legally, all vehicles must meet legal noise requirements to be allowed to drive on the road.

However, drivers often flout the law by over-revving their engines, failing to keep exhausts in good working order, or by altering their exhausts to increase the amount of noise they make.

Currently, the enforcement of noise laws relating to vehicles is overly reactive and is heavily reliant on subjective judgment to decide whether a vehicle is illegally loud or not.

The government’s prototype noise camera helps determine whether legal noise limits are being breached by considering the class and the speed of the vehicle relative to the camera’s location.

The camera will be trialled at several locations over the next seven months. If the trial is successful, the system may be further developed across the UK.

Tony Campbell, CEO of the Motorbike Industry Association, said that the trials could help crack down on illegally loud exhausts fitted by some motorcycle riders.

‘All manufacturers produce new motorcycles that follow strict regulations regarding noise and emissions and we welcome these trials as a potential way of detecting excessive noise in our community,’ Campbell said.

Noise pollution has demonstrable costs, as a European Commission report earlier this year found that the EU lost almost €25bn last year due to air and noise pollution laws not being implemented.

Air and noise pollution were estimated to have cost the bloc €24.6bn in 2018, largely due to healthcare costs and days missed of work and education.