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Come on, Hear the Noise

Wed, 06/19/2024 - 12:11


A court matter involving a social media celebrity and his ear-splitting muscle car resonates here, where intentionally loud cars add to the general din. A Seattle resident, Miles Hudson, modified his Dodge Charger to make maximum noise. He then gained Instagram notoriety, streaming himself roaring around the city at night. Residents were generally not amused by their rattling windows and disturbed sleep. After months of relative inaction, officials sought a judge’s permission to charge Mr. Hudson with violating noise ordinances and hit him with $83,000 in fines.

Excessive sound is a serious matter: The World Health Organization has said that noise is the number-two environmental factor contributing to health problems in Europe, second to air pollution. Like light pollution, noise has harmful effects on wildlife. Distraction of other drivers and pedestrians is dangerous, as well.

Extra-loud vehicles cannot be missed and that is the point — they can backfire on demand and roar to their drivers’ delight and the annoyance of most everyone else. Ear-splitting noise is part of the fun of a muscle car or certain kinds of motorcycles; it is metaphorically giving the finger to the world, a way to get attention and at the same time irritate everyone else. (We wonder if some certain part-time residents of the area who circle low in their thudding private helicopters when approaching East Hampton Town Airport, could be behaving similarly, albeit at several orders of magnitude greater expense.)

The South Fork has been a place to show off for more than a century. Thomas Moran, the celebrated landscape painter, imported an actual Venetian gondola, which he had propelled around the Italian city in 1890 and subsequently bought, had shipped here, and launched in Hook Pond in East Hampton. Moran hired George Fowler, of the Indigenous Montaukett people, as his gondolier. Old-timers did not care much for the Morans and the other artists and city folk who followed; one might draw an unbroken line to those of us who are irritated at the drivers of today who seek similar attention.

Regulating the roads can be complicated, however. A bill is pending in the New York State Legislature that would add exhaust-sound checks to annual motor vehicle inspections. The measure would shift the burden of compliance from police to vehicle owners, citing a proliferation of “illegally modified mufflers” on passenger vehicles. But the bill would not be a cure-all; plenty of unmodified “stock” vehicles are engineered specifically to roar. Cities around the country are installing noise-sensing cameras on roads. This is something that state and local officials should consider for the densely crowded Long Island region as well.

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