Sick and tired of that road racket? Bills to muffle mufflers advance at state Capitol

Lawmakers say they are getting a lot of noise about noise this year ― and are responding with new technology and police tactics.
Published: Apr. 3, 2023 at 5:33 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 3, 2023 at 5:40 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Lawmakers say they are getting a lot of noise about noise this year ― and are responding with new technology and police tactics.

State Sen. Sharon Moriwaki, a Democrat who represents noisy Waikiki and Kakaako, is optimistic for progress on a chronic complaint.

“I’m very hopeful that some of these will pass. It’s been a number of years we’ve been trying to do this,” she said.

State Sen. Chris Lee, Chair of the Transportation Committee added there is growing public pressure to do something, especially about vehicles modified to increase noise.

“I think the concerns from the community in general across the state in both rural communities and urban communities have been focused on this incessant noise problem that’s really gotten worse especially since the pandemic subsiding with a lot more activity,” Lee said.

Lee’s committee was the first to pass a bill that would establish and fund a pilot program on Oahu to test newly developed noise tracking cameras, which can follow and photograph an illegally loud vehicle.

At that hearing in January, state Department of Transportation Director-designate Ed Sniffen said the program would operate the same way as recently rolled out red light cameras with law enforcement involved in citations.

“We set up the equipment, or the county sets up equipment,” Sniffen said. “We will run it through HPD in different areas ensure that there was a violation before we send it off to the prosecutors.”

HPD Traffic Commander Maj. Stason Tanaka said enforcement of excessive noise has been difficult because officers have different perceptions of noise and don’t have equipment readily available to measure the volume.

The noise tracking cameras would be preset to certain decibel levels.

“As far as enforcement for police, we’re just going off of what is set,” Tanaka told senators. “So we’re not the ones that are determining what the noise level is higher or not.”

Some of the bills focus on the safety check system that is now supposed to prevent modifications that increase noise. Lee said that is clearly not working.

“People just swap out their muffler after they get a safety check and they are driving around with something really loud and then how do you catch them in the act?” Lee asked.

Moriwaki’s office said there are several Senate bills she is tracking.

Senate Bill 588 is noise camera pilot program.

Senate Bills 586, 587 and 1418 focus on enforcement by police and safety inspections.

“We have got to find solutions the noise problem is growing not only in our district but elsewhere,” Moriwaki said.

Among about five bills still alive, SB224 would decriminalize noise violations, reducing the burden on police in enforcement of not just vehicle noise but also noise infractions by businesses and street performers.

Lee said the violations would be similar to those issued for non-criminal traffic citations.

“Rather than having to go through the courts and prove some sort of standards,” Lee said. “It really simplifies the process and makes it easier for law enforcement to step in.”