New cameras are currently being tested that can detect if your car is too noisy. The Department for Transport is trailing the ‘acoustic cameras’ over the next seven months in several locations – and they could ultimately lead to fines for owners of loud vehicles if the technology is developed.

The move comes after pressure from campaigners who claim that some motorists are illegally modifying their vehicles to amplify the sound, causing disturbances in rural areas. Cameras you might otherwise associate with speed detection will be rigged up with microphones. When noise levels get too high, the camera will flash, taking a picture of the offending vehicle.

“Noise pollution makes the lives of people in communities across Britain an absolute misery and has very serious health impacts,” said Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling.

“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 worry is that for older cars and classics that have not been modified but are inherently louder than newer models will be penalised. Many classics won’t meet current regulations as they were never designed to do so – Europe-wide noise limits have been progressively reduced from 82 decibels in 1978 to the current limit of 74 decibels, established in 2016.

To avoid such issues, the new technology will need to be set up with a baseline standard that penalises genuine offenders but does not wrongly impact other motorists. In this respect, the noises from the DfT could be taken as a positive. It says that current enforcement is mainly reactive and relies on subjective judgement, but that the measurement system “will determine whether the legal noise limit has been breached by taking into account the class and speed of the vehicle relative to the location of the noise camera.”

Hopefully, this will mean concessions are made for the differing standards of older vehicles, but the issue isn’t quite as straightforward as that. For some vehicles, even much more recent ones, replacement exhausts aren’t available, so custom set-ups are the only option. That could make it even harder to keep certain cars on the road, so we will be watching the results of these trials with interest

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