Modified exhaust
Jimmy Dinsmore's picture

New Law Could Silence Loud Exhausts

Stop Loud and Excessive Exhaust Pollution (SLEEP) Act is about to become law in New York. Could this spark a trend in other states? Nationwide RPM Act looks to help save the assault on modifications and the aftermarket.

Earlier this spring I wrote a story imploring our federal legislatures to pass the RPM Act. The RPM Act stands for Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports. It basically seeks to clarify that racecars used exclusively for competition do not violate any portion of the Clean Air Act. So far, the bill is still in committees and hasn’t been brought to vote. We can hope it makes it to the floor of the House and becomes a law.

Although reading some of the comments (never read the comments!) on that story showcased that many people didn’t agree with the RPM Act for whatever reason and didn’t agree with my take either. To each their own. We are all entitled to our own opinions.

I saw a news blurb about a new bill that just passed through the legislative body in the state of New York. It has a cutesy name to make it sound more appealing.

But you can give a bill a cute name like the SLEEP Act but that doesn’t mean it is a good law. In New York state the Stop Loud and Excessive Exhaust Pollution (SLEEP) Act has passed through their legislature and is awaiting their Governor’s signature to make it a law.

Aftermarket exhaust system

What Is The SLEEP Act?
According to the write up by the bill’s co-sponsors, the SLEEP Act increases the maximum fine for certain equipment violations; amends the threshold for violations relating to mufflers and exhaust systems; requires police vehicles to be equipped with decibel readers.

"This bill will curtail dangerous behavior and let our neighbors get some peace and quiet once and for all," said bill sponsor Senator Andrew Gounardes. "Times are stressful and the last thing families need is to feel like they are living next to an airport runway with outrageously loud noises coming from souped-up automobiles."

This same state Senator has also proposed a bill to install noise cameras that could automatically issue citations for decibel violations. The law defines excessive or unusual noise as over 95 decibels for motorcycles and over 60 decibels for motor vehicles.

An excerpt from the SLEEP Act reads: “no such muffler or exhaust system shall be equipped with a cut-out, bypass, or similar device. No person shall modify the muffler or exhaust system of a motor vehicle in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the motor or exhaust system of such vehicle above that emitted by the muffler or exhaust system originally installed on the vehicle and such original muffler and exhaust system shall comply with all the requirements of this section.”

Read the full SLEEP Act here.

2019 Ford Mustang GT at SEMA

Why the SLEEP Act is a bad idea
We all like quiet neighborhoods. Much of this believed “necessity” for the SLEEP Act relates to bad behavior and people not being courteous members of society. Don’t rev your engine early in the morning or late at night. That’s just common courtesy.

But no law should tell people what they can and can’t do to a vehicle they rightfully own. The SLEEP Act goes too far, as laws usually do, even if they’re well intended.

The SLEEP Act will hurt car dealerships, private businesses and the aftermarket industry. Many aftermarket exhaust systems will now be illegal. SEMA, who has a been a vocal supporter of the RPM Act, points out that New York isn’t the only state with excessive noise regulations. 16 states, including New York, have aggressive laws that prohibit use of muffler that emits "excessive or unusual" noise AND prohibits modification if it causes the muffler to emit more noise than the original, factory-installed muffler, according to SEMA’s website.

24 additional states also have some form of legislation that Prohibits use of muffler that emits "excessive or unusual" noise, according to SEMA.

So I guess the SLEEP Act is just another step toward this and shows that New York is not alone in this stance.

See the breakdown by states and what laws are on the books here at SEMA's website.

2020 Ford GT exhaust

Can’t we have some common ground, along with some common courtesy to keep from the necessity of more governmental legislation into our lives? In the end, that’s the rub for me with the SLEEP Act.

I know plenty of muscle car enthusiasts and those in the tuner community who take pride in their vehicles and how loud they are. I personally think they have that right, but with that right comes some form of personal responsibility and accountability too. Surely we can find common ground and common courtesy to make laws like the SLEEP Act unnecessary.

What do you think about this act? Leave me your comments below (but let's keep it civil).

Jimmy Dinsmore has been an automotive journalist for more than a decade and been a writer since the high school. His Driver’s Side column features new car reviews and runs in several newspapers throughout the country. He is also co-author of the book “Mustang by Design” and “Ford Trucks: A Unique Look at the Technical History of America’s Most Popular Truck”. Also, Jimmy works in the social media marketing world for a Canadian automotive training aid manufacturing company. Follow Jimmy on Facebook, Twitter, at his special Ford F-150 coverage on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can read the most of Jimmy's stories by searching Torque News Ford for daily Ford vehicle report.

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The problem with individuals with loud exhaust policing themselves is just that, a problem they will not do it. I live in a remote area and the sports bikes and sports cars with modified exhaust race up and down the mountain. The speed limit is 40 but they do well over 80mph sometimes over 100mph. Most have loud and modified engines and exhaust, almos deafening.They pass on corners across double yellow lines endangering fellow drivers and riders. I know requiring the cars to be unmodified will not stop the speeding but maybe with my windows closed I’ll be able to at least hear my radio and TV.
i understand and empathize. I just never think more government interference and regulations are the answer.
Sounds great when there on the road. When the thinks it ok to rev the engine for over an hour when you trying to eat ,that’s not cool.I agree with the soon to be new law.
I Florida it's crazy loud, poor folks with hearing aids suffer, we all suffer at 2 am with screaming crotch rockets racing on nearby roads. Big Harley types think the louder there bikes are the girls will be attracted lol (high school mentality). We need that law in florida
Noise violations are almost impossible to enforce, since they all (according to the research I've done) require an intricate setup to evaluate the noise in a particular setting. Just requiring police vehicles to carry equipment that can evaluate vehicle noise levels and giving them the authority to use it is a huge step forward in noise violation enforcement. From what I've seen, the typical response from police to noise complaints is, "Sorry, but we don't have the equipment to measure the noise to allow writing a ticket, but we'll give them a verbal warning." Naturally, the ever-increasing friction between people in neighborhoods doesn't stop at ridiculously loud vehicles, as gas-powered leaf blowers, string trimmers, mowers, chain saws, power washers, and a host of construction tools all emit noise well over the 60dB threshold that most noise ordinances are written to. My biggest objection to the SLEEP Act in this article is that it allows motorcycles to produce noise up to 95dB. That is absolutely ridiculously loud. I have a neighbor 4 houses down with a stupidly-loud motorcycle that rattles my windows and walls whenever he starts it and of course he leaves it idling in his driveway for about 10 minutes while he walks around doing whatever he does to get ready to leave (and whatever he does when he gets home before he pulls it in the garage). As soon as he starts driving, absolutely nothing else is audible in my house. I can be sitting right in front of the TV or talking right next to someone and there is no way to hear anything until he gets almost 1/4 mile away -- and that's with all the windows closed. Various iPad noise meters I have used to measure the sound puts it at 50-60dB when idling down the street and 75-80dB when driving by barely above an idle (the ambient noise level in the house is 40dB). This far exceeds the 60dB limit of our local noise ordinance, but as I said, the police won't do anything about it (and there's some speculation the guy is a police officer himself anyway). So my point is that besides 95dB being far beyond annoying and extremely disrespectful to other people, it is well documented that noise over 80-85 dB is hearing loss inducing -- so to have a legal limit that contributes to hearing loss is very irresponsible. I've also been "that guy". Among other vehicles, I had a very nice Corvette with headers and Borla exhaust that used to set off car alarms as I drove through parking lots. I even took it to Germany when I was stationed there and living out in town, I was introduced to the extremely respectful society they have. After living there a while, I was embarrassed to be associated with the great number of "Ugly Americans" that permeate other countries. I also felt horrible each morning when I started my car and I always tried to keep as quiet as possible by finessing the clutch and driving out of the neighborhood at an idle. Of course, I grew up and the need to be loud and obnoxious for no particular reason faded. With the rise of electric vehicles, there will naturally be a decline in fossil-fuel powered vehicles and other equipment, that on one hand may make issues like noise legislation less necessary, but I also think this is going to create a new class of "have and have-nots". I believe in the short term there will be drastic increases in the ever-growing rift we have seen between neighbors, communities, states, political parties, etc. with many people "blaming" electric vehicles (think "ICE-ing" and all the indiscriminate vandalism to Teslas multiplied by every manufacturer that comes out with an electric car). Like it or not, electric vehicles will dominate the marketplace very soon, and legislators have a huge portion of the population ready to pull out their guns and bats to start shooting and bashing everything in sight they don't agree with or simply can't dominate by overpowering. So you have to ask yourself, how can we possibly "normalize" society so people can have their own beliefs, but don't feel the need to kill other people to proclaim their beliefs? What is going to happen when the winning car on race day is an electric car? So when looking at legislation that seeks to limit the "rights" of people to modify and use their vehicles in obnoxious and environmentally irresponsible ways, take a moment to think through how you would solve the greater issues that are trying to be addressed rather than just instinctively bashing someone's attempt at making a better life for a part of society that may not currently include you.
Very true DB. Very hard to enforce. I bet most officers won't bother with.
Fine for the racetrack or drag strip but If you and your family were waken up at all hours of the night by Mufflerless Harleys or Rams and F150's with straight pipes you might think differently.
I’m all for the “Sleep Act”. I have neighbors who run their damn Harleys up and down the street even setting off car alarms. The fact that the rest of us gave to live with the noise for a quarter of a mile after these selfish high school mentality Harley pass IS A CRIME.
Harleys have up to 100 db though. So it seems unbalanced.