Nuisance Noise: How “Acoustic Cameras” Could Help

By Lewis on 9th December 2019 - View Comments

How do you feel about car noise?

For some of you, it probably isn’t that annoying. Those of you living near a main road will feel differently.

Whatever your stance on the issue, you’ll be interested in the Department for Transport’s latest bit of in-progress kit: acoustic cameras.

They’ll look a lot like the speed cameras we’re currently used to seeing on the road, but will be fitted with microphones. When they detect noise levels above a certain threshold, they will flash, taking a picture of the suspect vehicle in order to send them a fine.

It comes after pressure from those living in rural communities, who have campaigned against people who disturb otherwise peaceful areas with illegally modified vehicles.

Though politicians like Transport Secretary Chris Grayling are in support of the plans, claiming that the cameras will assist overstretched police forces by “[providing] an alternative to make sure those communities are protected against excessive noise”, others aren’t as convinced.

Critics argue that, as what counts as ‘too noisy’ is a subjective judgement, legislation may fail to achieve anything of note for the affected areas (though police forces class noise above 90 decibels as a nuisance). In addition, campaigners have questioned its effectiveness; Dr Jonathan Moore, who has been working to reduce noise along the A52 in Hampshire, welcomed the trial, saying that residents were “thoroughly fed up” with people driving through villages late at night.

However, he questioned whether current technology was advanced enough to truly prevent rural noise problems.

“Where there are wide open spaces, I am not entirely sure that this will be effective,” he said.

The Motorcycle Industry Association was more optimistic; CEO Tony Campbell said that the key to the success of the measures would lie in the vehicle industry’s changing response. “All manufacturers produce new motorcycles that follow strict regulations regarding noise and emissions,” he said, “and we welcome these trials as a potential way of detecting excessive noise in our community.”

“Motorcycle manufacturers accept that they have a role to play and I think you’ll see it more difficult to start tampering with vehicles in the future.”

It’s worth noting that similar systems are in use in places like Canada, Singapore, Australia and the United Arab Emirates – but this will be the first time it’s been trialled in Britain, a country where in 2017, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea was paid more than £10,000 in fines and legal costs from noisy drivers in Knightsbridge.

The cameras will be set up in several noise hotspots over the next seven months, where their effectiveness can be measured. If they are successful, the scheme could be extended to other areas. No fines will be issued during the acoustic cameras’ trial period, but if the cameras are rolled out across the country, the DfT has made clear that they intend to use them in conjunction with already-widespread automatic numberplate recognition (ANPR) cameras to help identify offenders.

Whether it’s through removed silencers, damage to a vehicle or just revving engines for fun, noise pollution from cars has been shown to have a serious impact on people’s physical and mental health. Not only has prolonged exposure to noise been linked to conditions like stress and high blood pressure, but in London it’s been found to be responsible for increased risk of early death and stroke.

With the evidence on both sides, what do you think about acoustic cameras? Will they have any difference on noise pollution levels? Let us know in the comments!

Share This Post