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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.

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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 systemWhat 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 SEMAWhy 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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Mike Hopper (not verified)    June 19, 2021 - 4:27PM

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.

Dj (not verified)    March 2, 2022 - 9:37PM

In reply to by Jimmy Dinsmore

If government laws arent the answer to sleep at night and courtesy from these noisy race cars in our cities where they don't belong, what is and what will reduce the problem? I dont think people have any common sense. People have no respect or courtesy as they are reving up their noisy cars on purpose bc they think its a cool noise, but its noise pollution and a discourteous thing to do expecting people to put up with this noise. Its not cool, its disgusting! These race cars belong on race tracks not on our cities streets. There are city laws against modified exhaust systems that create noise and im ready to take action so i can hear my tv, get some sleep at night and have some peace and quiet in my yard the way it should be, something above the current laws, which are obviously needed since people have no respect for others or ordinances. The race car drivers do not abide by any laws and create danger on the roadways as the drivers are lawless and cause road rage and police chases as they disregard speeding laws and any others laws they can. And the only way to make things quieter and safer is for government to step in to enact these laws since people won't do it and haven't made any attempt on their own to abide by any city ordinances or laws. These owners are the reason why we now need government laws, bc they don't abide by any rules. They think they are above laws and rules and are forcing other remedies to be enacted bc of their disregard for others!

P Merkel (not verified)    April 21, 2022 - 6:10PM

In reply to by Dj (not verified)

I really don't know what to do anymore. I live in a suburb of Seattle and the noise from altered vehicles in our neighborehood is so bad, that out of 4 bedrooms (and running fans for white noise), only 1 is quiet enough to sleep in anymore. Its so loud, all hours of the day and night, that I have to wear earplugs or headphones just to get any relief, which makes it hard to hear other things like the phone ring or a pot boiling over. I can no longer use my beautiful backyard because of the ultra loud vehicles going by constantly. I have tried contacting local government, but just get the runaround. It's ludicrous to me that people are sqawking about an hour of gas blowers running, but will do nothing to help us get any kind of relief from this growing problem thats 24 - 7. My grandson says its because there is no longer emission testing in Washington and these exhausts couldn't pass before. I don't know if thats the case, all I know is that it is decimating our quality of life, causing horrible stress, anxiety, and insomnia, while causing our property values to plumment. So depressing.

P Burton (not verified)    April 24, 2022 - 1:07PM

In reply to by P Merkel (not verified)

I'm having the same problem here in Pennsylvania. It's NOT occasionally, like on a "cruise" night (which they have here). It's as you say "24/7". One engine sound dies down and another one comes along. It was not like this 5 - 10 years ago. I wear noise-cancelling headphones when I'm outside. We do have emission testing here in PA -- but it's done at garages...probably the same garages that do the modification. The article talks about the "rights" of people to have loud cars but where's my right to not have to listen to that noise? I choose to not live next to an airport, I choose not to live next to some local industries that have noise, I can't choose not to live next to ANY road. We're sandwiched between two very loud roads that are over a mile away in each direction and I still can here the cars (loudy) over the television and in our bedroom, with the window closed. Yes, it IS depressing...

Roger Gee (not verified)    June 20, 2022 - 5:54PM

In reply to by Jimmy Dinsmore

At some point my rights are violated. People who enjoy flaunting their loud mufflers have no concept of personal rights. They only have THEIR rights and to hell with everyone else. They are rude, uncaring, enjoy intimidating others .. basically bullies. You are right legislation does not work with people who have no regard for other rights to begin with.

Calfious (not verified)    October 16, 2021 - 6:07PM

In reply to by Mike Hopper (not verified)

Agreed 1000%....we are dealing with a noise PANDEMIC....people who grew up as kids in noisy dysfunctional households and now are ADD Starbucks caffeine junkies desensitized towards quiet....People who have bought into the 'look at me' material BS loud ass world around summation, people who can't concentrate on anything for too long and who no longer care about the wants or needs of others....

Alan (not verified)    March 28, 2022 - 12:35PM

In reply to by Mike Hopper (not verified)

Ya with the windows up radio turned on, now you won’t even know what’s coming down your path…. Police have a siren we have exhaust. At least you would know to look up before you mess around with the radio station due to the exhaust note that is man “warning you for your safety get out my way”. Lol

Bob Grecco (not verified)    June 19, 2021 - 4:34PM

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.

Michael (not verified)    June 19, 2021 - 6:10PM

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

db (not verified)    June 19, 2021 - 7:42PM

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.

Calfious (not verified)    October 16, 2021 - 6:36PM

In reply to by Jimmy Dinsmore

With a free app and your Android phone, you can turn your phone into a noise meter....not to mention they have noise dosimeters already to measure the loudness of workplace environments..question: why should I be exposed to excessive noise when IM NOT AT WORK?

92 dB guy (not verified)    May 15, 2023 - 12:24AM

In reply to by db (not verified)

What in Sam Hill are you blathering about?

All over the place with some rant about nonsense.

Borla exhaust doesn’t muffle the high-tones which are the most damaging to hearing at elevated sound pressures.

Conversely, low-frequency noise travels further and through walls more efficiently. Hence an idling motorcycle being heard in your home.

I have an industrial generator that is 57-59 dB at full load, but you can FEEL the low vibration noise because that’s how the spectrum works.

Emissions testing and Exhaust sound pressure
have nothing to do with one another, unless the catalytic converters have been removed.

Drive-by noise testing is complex and requires specific, repeatable parameters. A cold night makes things seem louder, vs a hot summer day.

What most are presenting is called anecdotal evidence. It isn’t repeatable, it isn’t verified, or measurable. It only serves to make you mad about some thing.

I don’t like smelling legal weed smoke in my house either, but that’s their right. So, I keep my windows closed.

Robby (not verified)    June 20, 2021 - 10:56AM

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.

Stephen Houston (not verified)    June 21, 2021 - 10:34AM

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.

Jay (not verified)    August 9, 2021 - 10:49PM

I agree that government involvement is often not of any benefit, but I don't see any other realistic solution for this problem. I live in Bayside, Queens and these idiots burn up the streets outside my house every single night and day. You can't find "common ground" with people who make a sport and hobby of showing the most flagrant possible disregard for everyone around them. These morons are the street equivalent of people who blast music on open speakers on the subways. They don't care and their desperation for validation makes them likely to be worse if you try to bring it up politely. I"m glad this law has passed and I hope to god that every one of these man children in my area gets slapped with fines until they grow the hell up and stop with this childish nonsense. Put your toys away and be a big boy

Michael (not verified)    August 26, 2021 - 11:47AM

I don't know about other states, but in NJ the state gov stopped requiring inspections and every year the intrusive and incessant modified exhausts has steadily gotten worse.

Young kids are basically trolling society with their noisemakers in the most cowardly, entitled way imaginable, treating public roads like their own personal Fast and Furious fantasy playground.

Every now and then, a loud car doesn't bother most reasonable people. But the current fascination with insanely loud extreme exhausts is a source of constant torment for people because it is so intrusive and incessant. NJ sounds like a formula one racetrack now. As if we needed our roads to be more rage filled and obnoxious.

Do what you want with your cars kids, but when it's intrusive into people's homes, the one place where they can chill, then you're being an entitled asshole.

Jay (not verified)    September 10, 2021 - 11:07PM

Hooray for the SLEEP Act. Boys with loud toys have become intolerable here in Columbia, SC. I wish we could get a similar law here. I support good government and this a great example of lawmakers responding to real problems. The whining about rights by loud drivers is laughable. Fine them all!

Benton (not verified)    February 23, 2022 - 6:58PM

In reply to by Jay (not verified)

Kershaw has already passed it which means Richland is not to far behind. Kershaw is trying to get rid of a lot of things my favorite being the squat They are writing big tickets and demeaning the vehicle unsafe for roadside you can’t drive it anymore

Tim Sammon (not verified)    September 25, 2021 - 7:32AM

Isn't "RPM" a cutesy name? Typical style of fools who think unnecessary noise is their right. I live on a main thoroughfare and have to endure these motherf*diets with their goofy modified exhausts. And it's not just bottles and legitimate sports cars: noodles driving dodge neons and 90s model civics. And the imbeciles in the trucks that need headers. And then there's all the racing and stupid ass crap like burnouts and donuts. How old are we? Sema pulled a fast one on California when it paid off the governor to amend (rescind) changes to the noise law. More people are paying attention now and the days of waking up babies and old folks... "rev bombing" (see YouTube if you don't know what rev bombs are.).... Setting off alarms and evoking skowls from as many people as possible are soon ending. These backwards ruined it for themselves. They may think they can do their obnoxious stunts and deafen the public at large with impunity, wearing their adolescent "I don't stop for cops" shirts... How about the rest of us? You gonna stop for us when we drift into your lane? Impunity isn't so funny when bikes start getting knocked over and bricks find their way though charger windshields. I don't practice or condone these behaviors, but you have to have your head completely up your ass if you think you can wake up the neighborhood, setting off alarms, getting dogs riled up and park on the street expecting your vehicle to be respected. And of course, that's exactly where most of these goons do keep their heads. So the cutesy RPM nonsense is just moronic. There is no middle ground. When the noise problem is crushed, it will be crushed dead. There are way more of us than them, sema lobbyists notwithstanding. We've got your rev bomb right here..! There will always be a few brain damaged goofs who will ignore the laws and when we hear these solitary obnoxious douches, well all have a good chuckle. Pointing and laughing at the pathetic clueless dumbass as they rev by....

Calfious (not verified)    October 16, 2021 - 5:45PM

Little boys with their hot wheels cars....LOL COMPENSATING FOR THAT LITTLE THING BETWEEN THEIR LEGS....

john (not verified)    November 28, 2021 - 6:33PM

"But no law should tell people what they can and can’t do to a vehicle they rightfully own..."

sometimes, it's a good idea to think before writing.