Car Audio Noise Laws

One of the problems with having a high powered system is that it can get you into trouble with the law if you abuse it. In the past several years there has been an explosion in the number of noise laws going into effect against loud car stereos. People are tired of hearing cars driving through their neighborhood with the volume cranked and the boom, boom, boom penetrating their home. As car stereo enthusiasts we have a responsibility to boom responsibly. You've got to use common sense. If you're driving through a residential neighborhood, especially after 8 pm, don't blast your stereo for all to hear. It's just inconsiderate to invade people's homes with your music. If that doesn't concern you then you should know that the laws are getting tougher. Even to the point where you could get your vehicle impounded and your car stereo confiscated. If you're "not scared of the cops" then you should know that it's also a great way for thieves to pick out your vehicle. Not everyone in the neighborhood is the nice old lady with eight cats. Some are shady and will remember your vehicle and where you frequent. This is especially true in your own neighborhood. Not only do they know where you live but they can watch and see when your vehicle is unattended. Then you won't have to worry about turning it down. You'll just have to worry about paying for a new system. Save your booming for the downtown streets and the parking lots.

With that said let me give you a few tips for keeping out of trouble.

  • Don't blast your music in residential neighborhoods at any time. Especially if you're doing more than just passing through. There's too many people that will call the police when you drive through a neighborhood.
  • Keeping your windows up will contain most of the non-bass sounds. Turn down the subwoofers but keep the bass in the front speakers. The frequencies below 100 Hz are the ones that really travel at high volume.
  • Know your local laws. They may be tougher than you think. Contact a few shops and the police department and get a copy of the laws.
  • If you do get stopped by the police, be polite. The same goes for any time you're pulled over. They don't like rude customers anymore than you do. And they have the authority to do something about. Ask them what the laws are and what you can do to stay in compliance. You should already know what the laws are so you're really just checking to see if they do. If they don't, this is not the time for a debate. They may let you off with a warning. If they don't then you'll have your day in court to present your case to a judge.
  • Don't blast music with offensive lyrics. Nothing will get you reported faster than an angry parent who just heard you blasting explicit music with their child nearby. The police empathize with parents (because they're usually parents too) so avoid this situation at all costs.
  • Get permission before you boom. If you plan on booming in a parking lot with your friends then you should ask the store manager before doing so. They're not likely to appreciate the noise during business hours. Try finding a parking lot that is empty. Don't be surprised if you don't get permission. They may not like boomers or they may not want to accept responsibility for anyone getting hurt. At least you'll know you're not wanting before the police show up and tell you.

Are you politically inclined and want to defeat the legislation at the source? Here's an article from Wayne Harris, the sound-off legend and creator of dB Drag Racing, explaining how he helped defeat "boom car" legislation in Arizona. Defeating "Boom-Car" Legislation. Car stereos aren't the only thing that can make noise on a vehicle. Think about how loud the ice cream truck music is. Now be glad you don't drive one. I don't know how they ever get those tunes out of their head.

Want to know what the police know? Read this article on the Department of Justice website. It's in Adobe Acrobat format. It's fifty pages but only about ten are worth reading. The rest are blank or are references.

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