County police cracking down on road noise

Posted June 29, 2010, at 8:32 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:54 a.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — While some people think it is cool to see a motorcyclist on a sharp-looking machine, revving up the engine as he or she zips through the downtown, others aren’t as happy about the situation.

They see those motorcyclists and motorists riding over local roads in vehicles with no mufflers as a stain on their desire for peace and quiet, and they are happy with changes to a state law slated to go into effect on July 12.

Law enforcement officials from Aroostook County have pledged to crack down on those who ignore the amended law relating to road noise.

Presque Isle Police Chief Naldo Gagnon, Houlton Police Chief Butch Asselin and Aroostook County Sheriff Jim Madore met recently with local media to discuss the changes to the law.

The current law governing road noise says vehicles must have adequate mufflers that are maintained properly to prevent excessive or unusual noise. Language was added recently that says excessive or unusual noise includes motor noise that is noticeably louder than that of similar vehicles in the environment.

The changed law also states that the exhaust system may not be modified if the result is amplification or noise that is louder than the muffler originally installed on the vehicle.

Violators could face a $137 fine.

“In the summer, the top three complaints we get are about speeding vehicles, motorists who run red lights and noise complaints,” Gagnon said Tuesday. “We usually issue one or two tickets a week in order to deal with noise complaints. We especially hear complaints about motorcyclists who are revving their engines. People want their quality of life to remain peaceful, and it’s hard if you have got a bunch of noise coming off the roadways.”

Asselin agreed, saying that the point of the partnership between Houlton and Presque Isle police and the Sheriff’s Department is to get the word out about the new law and to correct problems before they get out of hand.

Asselin said noise complaints are not reported often in Houlton, but indicated Tuesday that he hears complaints around town and in neighboring communities.

“I see a lot more motorcycles out there now,” said Asselin. “When people see me and my officers out in public, they will sometimes complain about the road noise and ask us what we are going to do about the noise from the motorcycles. I see a lot more motorcycles ride on the roads now, and it is tempting for some people to increase the noise being emitted from their mufflers. It’s different now. We used to hear complaints about trucks and their Jake brakes. Now the complaints are about motorcycles.”

Asselin said he sees how such noise could disturb the peace.

“If you live along a major road, the noise has got to be distressing at times, especially if you are trying to rest or you have children,” he said. “That is true as well if you have a large crowd of motorcycles going by.”

The chief said the Sheriff’s Department and the Houlton and Presque Isle police have agreed to issue written warnings for two weeks to violators who have not changed their exhaust systems to comply with changes in the law. After that, officers will issue summonses that will cost violators $137.

Gagnon said the two-week courtesy warning in The County “does not apply to the blatant violations of excessive, unnecessary and unusual noise from exhaust so as to cause a harsh and objectionable noise” as described in Maine Motor Vehicle Law.

Elaine Stanton of Littleton has a house just off U.S. Route 1. She said that she hears a lot of motorcycles going past her home.

“I can hear them before I see them,” she said Tuesday. “It is not everyone, of course, but the noise is really irritating. I actually have spoken to three or four of the riders that I see often around the community, and what they told me is that trailer trucks are loud, too, so why is the focus on motorcycles?”

Asselin said that neither he nor the other chiefs are against motorcycles in their communities. He added that he has a motorcycle himself and enjoys riding.

“It is all about being considerate and enjoying it, but being lawful and legal,” he said Tuesday. “You can have fun, but why would you want to disrupt someone else’s life in the process?”

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