Toronto taking steps to curb noise pollution; extra loud vehicles targeted

The country’s largest and arguably one of its noisiest cities could become just a little quieter if a new enforcement campaign aimed at muffling some of the worst offenders proves successful.

Toronto police have begun tackling noise pollution from those cars and motorcycles whose deafening roars are not only annoying, but, according to science, potentially harmful.

“My wife has explained this many times to me as being simply an outcropping of the inadequacies that certain people feel — mostly men — who drive these cars around,” Mayor John Tory quipped in announcing the campaign. “I will go no further than that.”

Either way, Tory said such “inconsiderate conduct” has no place in the city and is “indefensible.”

According to the World Health Organization, noise is an underestimated threat that can cause a number of short- and long-term health problems. Besides causing annoyance, research indicates the negative effects go further, including in the most extreme cases by damaging hearing.

“Excessive noise seriously harms human health and interferes with people’s daily activities at school, at work, at home and during leisure time,” the health organization says. “It can disturb sleep, cause cardiovascular and psychophysiological effects, reduce performance and provoke annoyance responses and changes in social behaviour.”

While Tory said residents know they aren’t living in Algonquin Provincial Park, many of them complain about noise — especially when it comes to vehicles that have been modified or are used in a way to create ear-splitting or headache-inducing roars.

“Loud and excessive noise can be characterized as noise that is a nuisance to the general public, taking into consideration the nature, location, time and proximity of the source to residents and members of the public,” the city said in a statement. “Examples may include a loud auto stereo or car, truck or motorcycle exhaust emitting sound to the extent it disturbs patrons at a restaurant, nearby residents or other motorists.”

In addition, the city said, racing, stunt driving and squealing tires are also associated with undue noise. During the week of June 29 to July 5, police handed out 44 noise tickets across the city.

They issued 600 citations for noise last year.

Various provincial and city bylaws are designed to provide enforcement officers with the tools to curb noise pollution. Those include limits or bans on vehicle horns and alarms, loud mufflers or exhausts, engine revving, squealing tires, or “general” noise.

The city is also considering using the audio equivalent of red-light cameras, Tory said, such as those used in Edmonton to crack down on noise scofflaws.

Toronto’s bylaw essentially bars anyone from making a noise likely to disturb the quiet, peace, rest, enjoyment, comfort or convenience of others. Notwithstanding, the number of complaints reached 12,974 last year, up from 11,297 in 2015, according to city figures.

Rod Jones, with bylaw enforcement, said the officers would be working an increased schedule of 20 hours a day “to be able to be there when the noise is happening.” Construction noise and emergency vehicle sirens are not part of the blitz.

Under the new campaign, about two dozen bylaw officers and police began an “awareness and enforcement action” late Monday in Yorkville, one of the city’s toniest areas. Health authorities note the less well off may be most at risk.

“The less affluent, who cannot afford to live in quiet residential areas or have adequately insulated homes, are likely to suffer disproportionately,” the World Health Organization says.

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