Grant Shapps bids to ‘banish the boy racer’ with noise cameras

The Department for Transport has launched a competition to find the noisiest streets in England and Wales where the new devices could be positioned.

30 April 2022

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps declared he wants to “banish the boy racer” as he announced plans to deploy noise cameras to catch “rowdy drivers”.

His department has invited MPs to enter a competition to find the noisiest streets in England and Wales amid concerns about the impact on residents from motorists revving engines and using illegal exhausts.

Four areas will be chosen to take part in a £300,000 trial of innovative noise cameras.

Police have the power to fine drivers who flout noise rules, but struggle to gather evidence.

The cameras can automatically detect when vehicles are breaking legal noise requirements.

They will be able to provide real-time reports to police, which could result in more targeted enforcement.

Preliminary testing showed the technology can identify individual vehicles in certain circumstances and assign noise levels to them.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said ‘it’s time we clamp down on this nuisance’ (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Mr Shapps said: “We want those in Britain’s noisiest streets, who are kept up at night by unbearable revving engines and noisy exhausts, to come forward with the help of volunteer areas to test and perfect the latest innovative technology.

“For too long, rowdy drivers have been able to get away with disturbing our communities with illegal noisy vehicles.

“It’s time we clamp down on this nuisance, banish the boy racer and restore peace and quiet to local streets.”

The trial will be led by a collaboration between professional services firms Atkins and Jacobs.

Andrew Pearce, practice director of Atkins-Jacobs Joint Venture, said: “This scheme is a critical development for people living in areas affected by anti-social driving.

“It demonstrates how we can use technology to take a highly targeted approach to solving these problems.

“Testing different noise measurement technologies with a range of vehicles in this controlled environment means we can ensure tickets are only sent to drivers with illegal and anti-social cars or bikes.

“Highway authorities will be able to automate noise enforcement and get on top of the problem without using up valuable police resources.”

Exhausts and silencers are required to be properly maintained, and not altered to increase noise.

Non-compliance can lead to a £50 on-the-spot fine.

The DfT said research has linked long-term noise pollution to physical and mental health problems such as heart attacks, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and stress.

People living in deprived areas are up to three times more likely to complain about noise than those in less disadvantaged locations, according to the Government’s recent Levelling Up White Paper.

AA president Edmund King said: “Excessive noise from modified cars used by ‘street racers’ or ‘pimp my ride’ racers are normally associated with defined areas where these individuals meet.

“Whilst this new noise technology can be targeted at known hotspots, it remains to be seen whether this just encourages the racers to find a street with no cameras.

“There is no doubt that anti-social excessive noise can cause health problems so targeting the culprits will be welcomed by local residents.”

John Stewart, who chairs campaign group UK Noise Association, said: “For many years we have had complaints from residents about excessively noisy vehicles.

“They will all be hoping to prove that their street is one of the noisiest so they can get the first batch of cameras.”

Westminster Council is already using noise cameras in the areas around Waterloo Place and Exhibition Road.

This was in response to long-term problems with noise and dangerous driving, such as cars performing loud doughnut manoeuvres in the early hours of the morning.

The DfT said it is not proposing to reduce speed limits to cut background noise for communities near major roads.

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