Apr 15, 2014 12:12 AM by Matthew Schwartz
TUCSON - Is traffic noise in Tucson out of control? One resident says engine noise from cars, trucks and motorcycles is louder here than in every city he's lived. And he's lived in New York and Los Angeles.
The resident, who does not want to be identified because he's afraid of retribution, is a 62-year-old writer who moved here about a year ago. He told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, "I think what we have here in Tucson is thousands of adults that behave like children, and should actually be ashamed of themselves. I've been sick of it since day one."
"You're trying to take a casual walk, just going down the sidewalk, and then you hear this thunderous sound. You have to plug your ears," he said.
He says he's especially concerned about the noise damaging the hearing of children, such as the students who walk to and from school near the intersection of Broadway and Harrison.
Tucson's excessive noise ordinance prohibits any activity that produces a decibel level in a residential area above 70, between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. From 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. the allowable decibel level in a residential neighborhood drops to 62. In a commercial zone, 72 decibels is the maximum permitted from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and 65 dB's from 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.
We brought a decibal meter phone app to the corner of Broadway and Harrison, and at least one car engine produced a dB reading of 101.
A Tucson Police Department spokesman, Sgt. Brandon Tatum, told the News 4 Tucson Investigators that TPD does the best it can to enforce the excessive noise ordinance, but it's not easy. Often, by the time officers arrive on the scene of a complaint, the offender is gone.
Tucson's noise problem might be getting worse. TPD says it issued 75 citations for excessive noise in 2012; the number jumped to 189 in 2013. There have been 46 citations issued so far this year.
Mark Herbert, a mechanic for 35 years, says a lot of loud engines are due to after-market exhaust systems. They are perfectly legal, as long as certain emission control equipment, such as a catalytic converter, is not removed.
Herbert says, "What they're supposed to do is be a free-flow exhaust system. They're supposed to let the exhaust gasses out faster. That way you can get more horsepower out of the car. And with that you'll also get more noise out of the car."
If you want to report excessive noise in your neighborhood, TPD says you should call the department's non-emergency number, (520) 791-4444. When reporting a loud vehicle, it would help police if you could provide a good description of the vehicle, its location, and, especially (and probably in rare cases), where the driver lives.
If you have any type of investigative story you'd like us to check out, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call our tip line, (520) 955-4444.