New York State is cracking down on illegal car mufflers and exhaust systems after Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation to increase fines from $150 to $1,000.
Elected officials say many of these illegal mufflers and exhaust systems are used by drivers engaged in illegal drag races. Drivers "who feel that they have the ability to assault people in their community with the loud drag racing noise and these loud mufflers on their motorcycles and cars, they seem to not care about other people," Hochul said in Bay Ridge on Friday. "And now we're giving them a message you need to care or else there are financial consequences."
The SLEEP— Stop Loud and Excessive Exhaust Pollution —bill was sponsored by State Senator Andrew Gounardes, who represents south Brooklyn, including Bay Ridge. Gounardes, who noted that noise pollution has been called an "underestimated threat" by the World Health Organization, said that illegal drag racing has been a major issue for constituents in certain communities.
"Today, residents across the state can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they won’t be kept up at night by excessively loud mufflers and exhaust systems," he said in a statement. "This is a quality of life and public safety issue that plagues our community for no logical reason other than to simply make noise. Now that the SLEEP Act has been signed into law, we can remove these loud and polluting vehicles from our streets once and for all."
The law also targets auto shops that install or sell the illegal mufflers and exhaust systems: If the shop is caught selling or installing them more than three times, the state will yank their operating license.
Noise complaints stemming from vehicles have increased since 2010. Drag racing has sharply increased during the pandemic.
Sports psychologist and legal drag racer Tami Eggleston told the Associated Press, "With COVID, when we were separated from people, I think people sort of bonded in their interest groups. So that need to want to socialize and be around other people brought the racers out."
Other lawmakers have seized on drag racing and noise to push other solutions: State Senator Brad Hoylman wants speed cameras to be on at night in areas with illegal street racing (his co-sponsored bill is called the, yes, FURIOUS Act) and Council Member Ben Kallos has proposed putting noise-detecting technology around the city to pinpoint offending vehicles.