Opinion

Raleigh is too loud. It doesn’t have to be.

Race cars thunder through the Wake County Speedway, which is hidden away south of Raleigh, on Fridays throughout the summer. Drivers compete with several classes of cars, ranging from slower mini-stocks to swarms of speeding late models.
Race cars thunder through the Wake County Speedway, which is hidden away south of Raleigh, on Fridays throughout the summer. Drivers compete with several classes of cars, ranging from slower mini-stocks to swarms of speeding late models. STEVE SVALINA PHOTOGRAPHY

I moved to Raleigh in 2007 when I left the military. My first five years living in the city were great. I lived in an apartment next to Six Forks Road. However, as time passed I began noticing that motor vehicles with very loud exhausts were frequently racing and driving aggressively around Raleigh streets.

The noise issue became so pervasive that I was regularly disturbed inside my apartment. Therefore, I moved into a house on a Raleigh cul-de-sac. Unfortunately, this did not improve matters. I was not only disturbed frequently inside my house during the day; I also began waking up in the middle of the night to racing exhaust sounds.

I discovered that N.C. General Statute 20-128 prohibits exhaust systems not of the type installed at the time of manufacture; it also requires the exhaust to work to prevent excessive or unusual noise. I reasoned that the loud exhausts I observed were unusual, given that the majority of vehicles on public roads do not sound like a race car exhaust. In addition, I also found out that Wake County and the City of Raleigh have their own, similar noise ordinances.

School buses, cargo trucks, diesel trucks, and garbage trucks are also loud—but this is not the noise I am referring to. These vehicles were not designed to be loud; the driver has not installed an after-market exhaust for the purpose of creating greater noise these are barely audible inside the house and I rarely notice them. I can hear the race cars, trucks, and motorcycles from a mile or more away, while I am inside with the windows closed.

I called the Raleigh police with specific complaints regarding vehicle noise as well as making a general point about loud motor vehicle noise. The responses I received were usually an officer stating that they need to witness the violation in person to issue a citation. This seems impossible; by the time the police arrive, the illegally-loud vehicle will be miles away. This suggests that police enforcement should be proactive rather than reactive.

I began writing state and city officials. I received responses assuring me that they have a noise ordinance and encouraged me to call the police when I had a complaint. This advice was of little use, as I had already contacted the police numerous times.

I requested statistical data from the Raleigh police. They have issued a total of ten citations for excessive noise from faulty or non-existent mufflers in the last three years.

Considering that I can count 10 or more violations in a single one-way commute each day, I must conclude that the Raleigh Police Department has been willfully ignoring this issue.

Reducing noise pollution can have positive effects on physical and mental health. Loud noises (such as those from racing equipment operating on public roads) are associated with cardiovascular disease, due to the repetitive release of stress hormones. Excessive noise is also associated with poor mental health. The United States has a growing problem with mental illness and cardiovascular health; addressing some of the root causes of these mental disturbances could improve Raleigh’s overall health.

The U.S. military uses noise as a weapon and as an interrogation technique. If loud noise is known by our government to cause pain—to the point of using it as an instrument of torture—then why are we allowing the general population to make excessive noise?

Our world’s population is growing exponentially. We are living closer together. It would benefit us to start recognizing this fact and acting more considerately toward others.

Raleigh city officials should ask the chief of police to focus on proactive enforcement for illegally-loud motor vehicles. Also, the state DMV should require that authorized vehicle inspectors be required to look for illegal noise-making equipment.

Raleigh citizens can get more involved by reporting motor vehicle noise violations to the police. Finally, motor racing hobbyists should invest in quiet modified performance systems or tow their vehicle to the Wake County Speedway (where it is legal to operate with loud pipes).

With these changes, Raleigh can be a quieter, more peaceful place to live.

Kevin Egelston, an information technology administrator for the state, was a licensed DMV safety and emissions inspector before joining the Navy.
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