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Toronto crackdown on excessive vehicle noise yields few results

WATCH ABOVE: Noise levels are rising in Toronto and now city council is reviewing what should be the acceptable level of noise from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Noise expert says 85 db is dangerous to hearing - but everyday life in downtown Toronto can hover over 80db. (Feb. 17, 2016)

A crackdown on excessive vehicle noise announced by Toronto’s mayor and police in July appears to have done little beyond nabbing scores of motorists in too much of a hurry.

The downtown blitz aimed at muffling the worst offenders resulted in 95 tickets, almost all for speed, police said.

“Noise from vehicles was not observed much by the involved officers,” said Sgt. Brett Moore, with traffic services.

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One problem, he said, is the lack of an objective standard for measuring when vehicles are too loud.

“An offence is committed when a police officer is able to articulate how a vehicle’s tires, motor or exhaust was unreasonable,” Moore said. “The Highway Traffic Act does not provide a quantitative measurement for excessive noise.”

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The aim of the campaign that ran July 15-19 was both to curb, and raise awareness of, noise pollution from cars and motorcycles whose deafening roars are not only annoying, but, according to science, potentially harmful. Mayor John Tory and police held an outdoor news conference in the tony Yorkville neigbourhood to announce the campaign.

READ MORE: Toronto police, bylaw staff looking to crackdown on excessive vehicle noise

“My wife has explained this many times to me as being simply an outcropping of the inadequacies that certain people feel — mostly men — who drive these cars around,” Tory quipped at the time, adding that such “inconsiderate conduct” had no place in the city and was “indefensible.”

Rod Jones, the city’s director of bylaw enforcement, said the July announcement was also designed to draw attention to bylaw changes that take effect on October 1.

Among other things, the new bylaw will prohibit anyone from making “unnecessary motor vehicle noise.” Examples given are sounding a horn, revving an engine, or squealing tires, although first-responder sirens are exempt.

READ MORE: Noise pollution is everywhere — here’s how to make time for silence

However, the only objective sound standard in the new bylaw applies to motorcycles, which will be prohibited from noise levels exceeding 92 dB(A) — a weighted measure of loudness — at 50 centimetres from the exhaust during idling.

The city is also setting up a dedicated noise team comprising 24 enforcement officers with more powers to issue compliance orders. Fines will rise to a maximum of $100,000 and directors and officers of a corporation can be held liable. Sound engineering experts are also helping develop “technical investigative techniques,” the city said.

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The number of noise complaints in Toronto reached 12,974 last year, up from 11,297 in 2015, according to city figures. Police issued 600 tickets last year to drivers for loud mufflers and causing unnecessary noise.

“We know that it happens far more that this,” Moore said.

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According to the World Health Organization, noise goes beyond irritation and can cause a number of short- and long-term health problems, such as damaged hearing.

“Excessive noise seriously harms human health and interferes with people’s daily activities at school, at work, at home and during leisure time,” the health organization says. “It can disturb sleep, cause cardiovascular and psychophysiological effects, reduce performance and provoke annoyance responses and changes in social behaviour.”

Tory also said the city was considering using the audio equivalent of red-light cameras, such as those used in Edmonton to crack down on scofflaws.

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