Fact vs. Fiction: New York Exhaust Noise Legislation

In early June, the New York legislature passed a bill that aims to crack down on excessively loud vehicles. Unfortunately, vague local news reporting has created confusion amongst enthusiasts about what the law will actually do. Luckily, the SEMA Action Network (SAN) is here to answer your burning questions.
 

Background:

So far in 2021, at least 11 states, including New York, have introduced bills aiming to curb the amount of noise emitted from a vehicle’s muffler. While no two state’s means of achieving this goal have been identical, they all have one thing in common: they were requested by constituents upset by loud vehicles in their community. Why? For many workers across the country, the pandemic meant an unexpected shift to remote work. As a result, people became far more aware of their surroundings, and the noises that come with them, especially from cars and trucks. Fortunately for enthusiasts, SEMA’s Government Affairs staff have been successful thus far in killing or amending any onerous proposals before they become law.
 

So, what about in New York? Let’s dive in!
 

Claim: A new bill in New York will ban exhaust modifications
 

Rating: Fiction

In January, lawmakers in New York introduced a pair of bills (S. 784 and A. 471) seeking to curb loud cars and trucks. The bills were amended several times prior to passage and now await approval or veto by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Importantly, the proposal does not change the state’s existing exhaust noise laws, which require every motor vehicle to be equipped with a muffler in working condition and prohibits the installation of bypasses, cutouts, or similar devices. Comparable language is universally used by states across the country and is designed to prevent motorists from deleting their muffler and/or catalytic converter.

So, what does the new law change? Put simply, it allows police to write larger fines for those breaking existing law. As it stands New York has one of the lowest exhaust noise fines in the country. This bill would give police the discretion to write larger tickets (capped at $1,000) if the situation warrants.
 

The bottom line: law-abiding enthusiasts will be unaffected by these proposals.
 

Claim: New York’s new exhaust noise bill creates a 60-decibel muffler limit
 

Rating: Fiction

As mentioned above, S. 784 and A. 471 do not change New York’s underlying exhaust noise laws, it simply gives police more discretion to enforce against bad actors. However, the initial versions of the bill were quite different from the final product, and some in the automotive media have used early versions of the bill as their reference when reporting on the proposal. 

So, what sort of differences are we talking about? As initially drafted, cars and trucks would have been limited to 60-decibels of exhaust noise, subject to a flat $1,000 fine, and police cars would have been equipped with sound meters to help enforce the law. None of these proposals made it into the final version of the bill. The decibel limit was removed as it would have rendered practically every car on the road illegal, the universal fine was changed to a cap, and the sound meters were scrapped as well.

For months, SAN staff have been working behind the scenes with the bills' sponsors to craft language that both achieved their goal of cracking down on lawbreakers while ensuring that enthusiasts would still be allowed to enjoy their passion. Yes, compromise is still possible in politics!
 

Questions? Please contact Christian Robinson at stateleg@sema.org.