BOISE – Hot rodders whose modified mufflers rattle windows and disturb the sleep of Idaho residents could face fines of as much as $1,000 after members of a neighborhood group told lawmakers Thursday that existing penalties aren’t sufficient to get local police to enforce noise limits.
Idaho law now requires “every motor vehicle shall at all times be equipped with a muffler in good working order and in constant operation to prevent excessive or unusual noise and annoying smoke, and no person shall use a muffler cutout, bypass, or similar device upon a motor vehicle on a highway.”
What’s more, the law makes it illegal to even “sell, offer for sale, or install any noise suppressing system or device which will produce excessive or unusual noise.”
But Craig Hlousek, a Boise resident, told the Senate Transportation Committee that young people in his neighborhood are leading a “terrorist existence” by installing so-called “glass pack” mufflers that increase power but do little to reduce engine noise.
“This generation is disturbing the peace,” Hlousek said. The fine is just $52. He said that when he calls the police, they tell him it’s “not enough to bother with it.”
On a 7-1 vote, the committee agreed to consider enacting a stiffer statewide penalty for drivers with noisy cars outfitted with mufflers from companies such as Cherry Bomb, whose advertisements read “Disturbing the peace since 1968.” Some said fines up to $1,000 would be appropriate.
“If law enforcement won’t enforce the law because it’s not worth their while, let’s make it worth their while,” said Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise.
Still, the panel’s lawmakers balked at supporting the out-and-out “glass pack” ban that Hlousek wanted, saying existing state law already prevents drivers from making too much noise.
“If the current law is not being enforced, this is an issue that belongs before the local city council, not the state Legislature,” said Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls.
Boise Police Department spokeswoman Lynn Hightower said traffic complaints about excessively loud mufflers are investigated, albeit with a lower priority than more serious complaints.
“It’s certainly something that our officers would respond to,” Hightower said.
Car buffs who criticized Hlousek’s proposal to boost the fine and ban glass packs told the panel aftermarket muffler modifications aren’t to blame. It’s people who drive inappropriately, they said.
“The fault of the matter is how a vehicle is driven by an individual,” said Tom Ammerman, owner of Ammerman Custom Exhaust in Garden City, a Boise suburb. He fears that if special mufflers were outlawed, installers like his own business could be in hot water.
And Bill Goodnight of the 900-member United Street Rods of Idaho called a $1,000 fine “draconian.” Rather than making the existing state law tougher, Goodnight said, it should be thrown out completely – on grounds the provision that makes it illegal for shops to sell or install noise-making mufflers turns law-abiding retailers and car buffs into outlaws.
“It criminalizes hundreds of small businesses in Idaho,” he said. “We can’t understand how it even became law.”
Legislators including Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, agreed, saying she’ll propose dumping that provision.
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