Luis Burbano is tired of what he considers noise and excessive speed from vehicles on a residential street in south Everett.
The 38-year-old Boeing engineer has been using a home security camera to track drivers on Dakota Way for nearly two years. Videos show late-night burning and drivers swerving and zooming down the road.
Even through muddled audio, the sounds of roaring engines roaring and sputtering are clear.
“At night, it will wake you up,” said Burbano, whose 2-year-old daughter has been awakened by passing drivers. “Then everyone is awake.”
Loud cars have caught the attention of lawmakers around the world in recent years.
In Victoria, Australia, the city requires some owners to test their vehicles’ noise emissions before they can legally be on the road. Violations cost $908.70 and the penalty for ignoring the summons carries a $1,090 fine that adds up to more than $5,000 if it goes to court, according to Drive.com.
Several US states, including Florida, New York and Virginia, recently passed new laws targeting loud cars.
Seattle passed an ordinance against silencers in 2018.
There is science behind the decisions rather than a collective complaint of “it’s too high”.
The World Health Organization and the European Joint Research Center published a 2011 study linking traffic noise to the disease. Vehicle noise is considered a physiological stressor similar to secondhand smoke.
Everett has a code that sets maximum vehicle noise levels. The limit depends on the vehicle’s speed and weight, with those over 10,000 pounds. with a higher hood than other vehicles.
There were more than 2,000 noise complaints last year in Everett, according to open data released by the city. But the source – home, vehicle or otherwise – of these complaints has not been identified in the online data portal.
Since 2015, 22 noise ordinance cases have been opened by the Everett Police Department. Of these, the location type was not specified for 16 cases and all but three were closed.
It’s difficult to enforce noise traffic violations based on RCW 46.37.390 because an officer has to witness it, Everett police spokesman Kerby Duncan said in an email.
“Vehicle noise complaints are one of many important quality-of-life issues we work to address as a department,” Duncan wrote. “We do this by educating our public (we had social media over the summer with clarifications on muffler laws), highlighted patrols by our motorcycle unit, proactive patrols and of course, responding to 911 complaints… the law does not allow us to write quotes based on the word or video of a witness.”
The Everett Police Department’s traffic unit consists of two detectives, two motorcycle units and six patrol officers. Motorcycle units typically conduct highlight patrols, and patrol officers respond to crash and DUI reports, as well as traffic complaints, Duncan said.
Staffing shortages have hit the traffic unit, as one of the motorcycle unit’s officers was temporarily assigned to investigate the department’s candidates.
Department leaders intend to add four to eight more officers to the motorcycle unit, which will focus on vehicle noise and other “quality of life” issues, Duncan said.
The speed bothers Burbano so much that he built an elevated planter between his house and the road, just in case.
His hopes for Dakota Way are different from a technology-driven approach like noise detection cameras in Miami Beach or Everett’s proposed red light cameras.
Instead, he wants the city to install speed bumps, or chicanes, to curb extensions that deviate the lane from a straight line. Both options could reduce travel speeds, he said.
“These engineering solutions would take care of most cars,” Burbano said.
Speed humps have fallen out of favor with engineers, often citing data showing increased velocity between elevated concrete humps. Elsewhere, speed bumps have proven effective, particularly in reducing child pedestrian injuries.
Tyler Rourke, an active transportation advocate who chairs the city’s volunteer-appointed Transportation Advisory Committee, agrees with Burbano’s position. He has urged city leaders to change Everett’s public right-of-way in favor of greater biking and walking access.
More than 42,000 people died in motor vehicle accidents last year, according to an estimate by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“We just shrugged our shoulders,” Rourke said. “We don’t look at our systems, the design of our roads or the design of cars.”
Road work is expensive, so changing a road as short as Dakota Way can cost millions of dollars. But Burbano thinks the city could combine some infrastructure to make it safer, such as
“I just hope they do something about it,” Burbano said.
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