Drivers behind noisy vehicles deserve stiffer fines, some Edmonton residents say

·4 min read
Edmonton's Whyte Avenue and Gateway Boulevard are strips where vehicles with modified mufflers and motorcycles make excessive noise.  (Natasha Riebe/CBC - image credit)
Edmonton's Whyte Avenue and Gateway Boulevard are strips where vehicles with modified mufflers and motorcycles make excessive noise. (Natasha Riebe/CBC - image credit)

Hundreds of Edmonton residents, fed up with excessive noise from vehicles and motorcycles in the summer, are calling for the City of Edmonton to hand out stiffer fines to drivers creating the chaos.

Michael Janz, councillor for Ward papastew, wants Edmonton peace officers and police to have the ability to give out $5,000 fines to drivers caught making noise above 74 decibels.

Right now, tickets for excessive noise — above 85 decibels — range from $162 to $250 under the provincial Traffic Safety Act or the city's Community Standards Bylaw.

People on motorbikes with straight pipes, cars with modified mufflers and pick-up trucks with diesel engines are the usual culprits behind the infractions.

"These are illegally modified vehicles," Janz said Monday. "They should already be taken off the roads, yet they're ripping out around the city."

Noise can be heard sometimes all night long along corridors like Whyte Avenue, Jasper Avenue, Groat Road, Connors Road and Saskatchewan Drive but Janz said he's had complaints from people all over the city.

"These are people who are deliberately paying thousands of dollars to make their vehicle more loud and more annoying and as such, they need to be paying big fines and be discouraged with any tool we have," he said.

The city's bylaws would have to be amended to allow for higher fines.

Calls for higher fines

Janz has posted a petition on his website that's garnered more than 500 signatures so far.

Anthony Joyce, a psychologist who lives above Whyte Avenue, signed the petition and said he's fed up with the noisy vehicles and the behaviour that drives it.

Joyce said he supports Janz's idea for tougher penalties.

"I don't I don't think a $250 citation is going to deter these people. They probably spend that much on their vehicles every week," Joyce said. "So if [Janz] is talking about a four figure or five figure fine for these guys, I'd be all for that."

Dozens of sport bikers going by at the same time also create havoc, Joyce said in an interview with CBC Monday.

"It's absolutely painful sometimes," Joyce said. "These things are so loud when they go by, so it's hard to even think."

Janz asked city administration to compile a report showing what the city has done and what the options are available to curb the problem.

The report shows Edmonton peace officers typically issue provincial tickets of $162 to drivers with mufflers producing excessive noise, flames or sparks and other modifications to mufflers.

Tickets have also been handed out to drivers in residential neighbourhoods creating excessive noise between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Council's community and public services committee is set to discuss the report at a meeting Aug. 8.

Fines not enough

Karl Tracksdorf, a consulting transportation and land use planner, lives at Jasper Avenue and 116th Street and also signed the petition.

"I think the fines are completely inadequate and not in any way punitive or going to have the effect of reducing the issue at hand," Tracksdorf said. "I think that in general, there needs to be much higher fines."

Fines are just one part of a larger package to address the noise, Tracksdorf said during an interview Monday.

"It needs to be tackled with things such as road design," he said. "Basically slowing down traffic, taming the automobile, as it's known in the profession."

In 2020, the Edmonton Police launched a program to curb vehicle noise, called Project TENSOR (Traffic Enforcement Noise/Speed Offence Reduction).

The first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic saw an increase in traffic safety-related complaints and vehicle noise concerns.

In 2021, peace officers issued 708 vehicle noise-related tickets, compared to 138 tickets in 2020 and 72 in 2019.

Noise radar technology that was once installed on some Edmonton streets to measure decibels and give police authority to ticket is now gone.

Janz noted that since the province put a pause on automated enforcement like photo radar for speeding, the city is prevented from using similar technology for noise.

Cities around the world are implementing automated enforcement that allows them to pinpoint which vehicle is creating excessive noise, and give out tickets accordingly, he said.

"I would love to see that sort of technology implemented in Edmonton but right now we need the provincial government," Janz said. "We need them to reconsider that to include noise."

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