Supervisor Boddye’s office has received quite a few calls regarding excessive vehicle noise since he took office last January. Typically, his staff is able to resolve most constituent concerns by making a few phone calls to the right county or state agency. This issue was different. Each call unveiled obstacles to enforcement and loopholes in state and local code. On March 11, the Supervisor hosted a townhall that connected state officials with agencies such as the county’s police and transportation departments, to have a holistic discussion on this complex issue.
Already difficult to enforce, recent legislation passed by the General Assembly may prohibit excessive vehicle noise from being considered a primary offense. This means that an officer can not pull a car over simply for excessive noise. This compounds existing enforcement challenges: Defending the enforcement in court is incredibly difficult, and the violations mainly happen at night, when patrols prioritize other calls for service over traffic enforcement. Additionally, only a few officers have the special training required to accurately detect and report vehicle noise violations and it is difficult to catch violators in the act, since they are typically gone before officers can respond.
While much of the townhall discussion simply reinforced the web of obstacles to dealing with loud cars in our communities, it also pointed to some possible paths forward. Based on the conversation, Sen. Surovell drafted a letter to the Attorney General’s office asking for clarification on the legislation that eliminated excessive vehicle noise as a primary offense, to see if it can be enforced. If the AG finds that it excessive vehicle noise is enforceable as a primary offense, more options would become available. Should this be the case, the Supervisor indicated that he would request VDOT and PWDOT to research technology – such as audio detectors – that could assist in enforcement. These agencies would need to ensure that any new technology employed would addresses noise issues without creating new problems. The Supervisor has also asked the state delegation and the Virginia State Police explore whether vehicle inspections could include regulations on modified mufflers, so that vehicles with these alternations would fail inspection.
While Supervisor Boddye will continue to work with county agencies to affect change where they can, the heavy lift on curtailing this nuisance will need to take place at the state level. Residents should reach out to State representatives, asking them to support making modified mufflers a violation of state vehicle inspections and to provide local police with tools to enforce excessive vehicle noise.
In the meantime, the Prince William County Police Department is asking for residents to report excessive vehicle noise issues through the traffic safety hotline, which could allow them to do targeted enforcement in specific areas. While current interpretation of state law is that excessive noise cannot be a primary offense, if these vehicles are speeding or otherwise committing traffic violations, the vehicle noise can be addressed during the interaction.