"Boom Cars and Loud Motorcycles"

by Guy Gould

Boom cars and motorcycles have taken over this county. And law enforcement officials are doing next to nothing to stop it.

How many of you who live near a major road can go 10 minutes without hearing a vehicle that has been intentionally modified to make as much noise as possible, or some sound system that will rattle your windows? When was the last time you drove from one end of town to the other without having to put up with some vehicle making as much noise as they could?

Over the last several months I have tried to find out why there are so many vehicles around Carteret County that are so loud. For instance: motorcycles with no mufflers; cars and trucks with modified exhaust systems designed to make them louder; and those popular boom cars. We all know that these vehicles were made that way on purpose.

The first place I inquired about noise violations was the Morehead City Police Department. The first person I spoke to was Sgt. Harmon. I asked him why the police were not ticketing these vehicles. He said, "We have been kind of lax." I asked him if it wasn't against the law to remove the muffler from a motorcycle? He said "yes." I told him I rode motorcycles for 20 years and found no pleasure in making my bike as loud as I could. He then told me that he, too, owed a Harley and that he had just replaced the exhaust pipes and that it was now a little louder that before.

He made me a copy of State Law 20-128, which states that individuals cannot drive a motor vehicle on the highway with the mufflers removed or an exhaust that is not like the factor installed and must be in good working order. In other words, you cannot modify your exhaust system to make more noise than what it did when it came from the factory.

About a week later I had a chance to talk to Sgt. Raines with the Highway Patrol. He said, "I hate those noises, too." He said he had complained to County Commissioner Betty Hall and was told that the county had a 11:30 curfew on noise. He said he had also contacted State Representative Jane Preston and was told it would be too expensive to buy decibel meters for the Highway Patrol. I asked him why the Highway Patrolmen in the area were not giving tickets to the motorcycles that they could plainly see had no mufflers and that on at least five occasion I had observed motorcycles with no mufflers pass Highway Patrol cars. He never gave me a answer but referred to the fact that he "had only one Officer for the area."

I mentioned to Sgt. Raines about a week earlier Sheriff Thomas was campaigning door to door and while he was on my front porch we observed four cars in a row run the STOP sign by my house and one of those boom cars came by and I asked the Sheriff if there wasn't there something he could do about that. The Sheriff told me he would contact the Highway Patrol. I said to the Sheriff good luck--that I had already done that. Sgt. Raines said the Sheriff's deputies had the same power as his men when it came to highway violations.

By this time I was starting to see a pattern: everybody was waiting for the other law enforcement agency to do the job of ticketing for noise violations. I went so far as to call the Morehead City Police Department one Saturday morning when I observed at least 30 motorcycles that were in the K-MART parking lot. It was quite obvious that at least about 12 had no sign of mufflers on them at all. The dispatcher said she would send an officer out to investigate. I went back out and sat in the parking lot to see if any tickets would be issued. When the patrolman showed up, he rode by them slowly and left as they were leaving. I was parked over 200 feet away and could hear the bikes quite clearly, even though they made a point not to make much noise because the policeman was still nearby.

When I called and asked why no one received a ticket, Lt. Wilder came by to talk to me. I asked why the bikes with no mufflers were not ticketed. He said that he "didn't see anything wrong." I then asked that was it not against the law to operate a vehicle without a muffler. He said "yes." He then added "that if he ticked every motorcycle for not having a muffler he would be out there 24 hours a day seven days a week." I knew this was going nowhere.

Over the next several weeks, I started asking questions of the patrolmen and patrolwomen whenever I saw them parked out behind the National Guard Armory. I asked them why these vehicles were allowed to make so much noise and not be ticked. They said, "I've never seen a motorcycle without a muffler," "I'm not a mechanic; I can't tell if it's the right muffler or not." I replied that if you can hear it from three blocks away, there is a 99 percent chance that it doesn't have the proper muffler.

One of the policemen told me he would issue a ticket to a motorcycle he saw without a muffler, but he is also the one who told me he has never seen a bike with out a muffler. I talked to at least four policemen and got basically the same answers.

When asked about boom cars, they said when they heard them they asked them to turn them down. I think we all know how much good this does. As soon as they drive away it's wide open again. We know that these people with more money invested in their sound system than their car or education are not going to leave it turned down. They did say they had cited several; I have my doubts about that.

I then talked to Major Johnson, an aide to the Police Chief. I asked her why nothing was being done about the loud cars and motorcycles. She told me that some of the boom cars had been cited. When I asked about the loud motorcycles, she said they all sounded loud to her. I told her that motorcycles with factory mufflers are not loud--not even Harleys. She said the police department had a Harley and it was loud. I told her it should be checked out because if it had factory mufflers, it would not be loud.

I finally had a chance to talk to the Chief of Police for Morehead, Chief Turner. I once again asked him about the loud bikes and cars. He said he had been expecting me. He said that I was the only one to complain about motorcycles. I replied that maybe that was because they knew that nothing would be done. He then said "that was not a priority with them that there were more important thing than motorcycles without mufflers."

I really don't expect the police department to drop everything and concentrate on loud vehicles, but I would expect that when an officer is traveling in his car and he hears one of these vehicles, he issues a ticket. This is not like someone who may be a few miles an hour over the speed limit because they weren't paying attention to the posted speed limit. These loud vehicle were made that way on purpose to make a lot of noise. I then told him about a loud boom car that pulled up next to me and when I asked him to turn it down that all I got was foul language and a louder noise.

The Chief said "that unless he was doing something in a official capacity he would not say anything to someone to have them turn it down with the way some people are today." It made me wonder if we have we all turned to being afraid to say anything because we think that someone may assault us. The chief led me to believe that the law that governs the loudness of vehicles would not be enforced unless more people complained.

The conclusion I have come to after talking to several other officers in different counties is that nothing is going to be done about these vehicles that roam our highways without a lot of outcry from citizens. Any law ignored by law enforcement is a green light for those who would break it. The ones who talked candidly did say that the reason no tickets are given is that there are several in every department who also have loud exhaust systems on their vehicle and that it is all right with them.

Overall, our law enforcement is doing a good job, but they have to remember that the laws passed by our elected officials were done so by request of the citizens to govern the everyday things that also make lining in this great state better such as a way to control noise.

If you would like to see something done about all these loud vehicles so you are not constantly assaulted by loud noise, give the Chief a call (241-0951). I'm sure he would like to hear from you.

This is an election year. Give the Sheriff a call. Call your County and State legislators.

Police departments don't need a lot of expensive equipment to check vehicles for noise. Many towns and counties have passed ordinances that state that if you can hear the sound coming from a vehicle 30 feet away, it's too loud. You are ticketed and fined, and your vehicle is impounded. The sound system is removed at your expense.

The state has a law that can cure the loud exhaust system noise without any equipment at all (20-128). Some of the police and the Chief have said when they do ticket these vehicles that it is a waste of time to go to court because it will be laughed or thrown out. It that is the case, then the police have done something wrong or we need new judges.

Now is the time to send a message to those who would purposely change their exhaust system that if you want to ride in our community you must be quiet. If you would like more information about how to stop this ever-worsening noise problem, go to www.noisefree.org. Remember: it won't get any better until you complain.