Residents Complain of Roaring Cars

Residents Complain of Roaring Cars
Residents are complaining that fast, loud cars and motorcycles are becoming a neighborhood nuisance and safety hazard. Some neighbors believe these cars may have been modified to be louder. Unfortunately, police can no longer pull drivers over for noise due to a bill passed in the 2020 legislative session intended to reduce bias-based traffic stops.
  A attempt to find a solution is being spearheaded by Clarendon Courthouse Civic Association president David Cheek. NBC4 News Report Code of Virginia

Legislative Response
The problematic change to the Code of Virginia was introduced by Virginia Del. Patrick Hope to benefit “communities of color.” Del. Hope represents southern and western parts of Arlington (not LV). Del. Hope responded on NextDoor, stating “We are looking to amend the law in light of the increased noise in the neighborhoods and will have something to propose in the next legislative session.” This was followed by a long series of comments by residents. Similar language was also inserted into numerous other provisions of the Code of Virginia by Del. Hope. NextDoor Discussion

Ashton Heights Civic Assn: Police Response
Report by Randall Mariger which he re-posted on Next Door.
This is an issue raised last May with others in the Ashton Heights Civic Association (AHCA), and on 5/19 the AHCA zoom meeting included a presentation by an Arlington county police officer on the issue. For those interested in a little background on the issue, below I paste in a summary of the meeting that I shared with the AHCA email group.

The Wednesday AHCA zoom meeting included a segment with a ACPD representative answering questions concerning the increasing prevalence of noisy vehicles prowling the streets in and near the neighborhood.

Below I document what I learned and also the substance of some exchanges between myself and the ACPD representative.

1. The pertinent vehicle noise law is a Virginia law (as opposed to a county ordinance), specifically § 46.2-1049. Full text is at the bottom of this message. In summary, it prohibits modifying a vehicle’s exhaust system so that it “permits the escape of noise in excess of that permitted by the standard factory equipment exhaust system of private passenger motor vehicles or trucks of standard make.”

2. Violation of § 46.2-1049 is a “traffic violation” that generally carries a $30 fine. (Court fees of $64 would be accessed only if the ticket was unsuccessfully challenged.)

3. As of 3/1/2021 VA law prohibits police from stopping a vehicle to cite it for violating § 46.2-1049 unless the driver is also violating a primary offense, such as maintaining a speed 15 MPH over the limit. This is true no matter how loud the offending vehicle is. (A Tuesday email to this listserve noted this law change, and asserted the reason was that police had been using the vehicle noise laws as an excuse to harass minority populations. I’ve yet to investigate.)

4. The ACPD representative advised us to lobby our elected officials in Richmond if we are unhappy with ACPD’s policing of vehicle noise violations.

5. I suggested that the vehicle noise problem has been getting worse for a long time, not just since 3/1/2021, so there must be some additional explanation for why the vehicle noise problem has been getting worse. So I asked what ACPD policy was prior to 3/1/2021.

6. The ACPD representative answers indicated that ACPD policy was not changed by the 3/1/2021 Virginia law change; that is, ACPD did not stop vehicles for noise-only law violations prior to 3/1/2021.
a. The ACPD representative said ACPD thinking is that stopping a vehicle for a noise-only violation would be overly aggressive policing.
b. The ACPD representative said enforcing laws that protect health and safety (and presumably property) are ACPD’s focus.
c. The ACPD representative did not say that there is a trade-off between enforcing vehicle noise laws and enforcing other more serious offenses. To the contrary, the ACPD representative made it clear that he believes vehicle noise violations are no big deal and hence citing noise-only violations would constitute police harassment.

7. The ACPD representative said ACPD can and will respond to citizen complaints about specific incidents of a vehicle violating the noise law.
a. I pointed out that a citizen complaint could have consequence only if a particular violating vehicle were to take a routine route, in which case ACPD potentially could catch the offender.
b. I asserted the only way to address the problem is for ACPD to proactively police vehicle noise violations so that people will be discouraged from modifying their vehicles.

My conclusion: It would seem that making any progress on this issue will require both a change in VA law and a change in ACPD’s attitude about the seriousness of vehicle noise offenses.

Code of Virginia § 46.2-1049. Exhaust system in good working order
No person shall drive and no owner of a vehicle shall permit or allow the operation of any such vehicle on a highway unless it is equipped with an exhaust system in good working order and in constant operation to prevent excessive or unusual levels of noise; provided however, that for motor vehicles, such exhaust system shall be of a type installed as standard factory equipment, or comparable to that designed for use on the particular vehicle as standard factory equipment. An exhaust system shall not be deemed to prevent excessive or unusual noise if it permits the escape of noise in excess of that permitted by the standard factory equipment exhaust system of private passenger motor vehicles or trucks of standard make.
The term “exhaust system,” as used in this section, means all the parts of a vehicle through which the exhaust passes after leaving the engine block, including mufflers and other sound dissipative devices.
Chambered pipes are not an effective muffling device to prevent excessive or unusual noise, and any vehicle equipped with chambered pipes shall be deemed in violation of this section.
The provisions of this section shall not apply to (i) any antique motor vehicle licensed pursuant to § 46.2-730, provided that the engine is comparable to that designed as standard factory equipment for use on that particular vehicle, and the exhaust system is in good working order, or (ii) converted electric vehicles.