GUEST COLUMN: Deliberately loud, illegal vehicles have me seeing red

Brian Clarke

Countless letters to the editor, petitions and phone calls to the mayor’s office over the years have highlighted this community’s ongoing problem with so-called “redliners.”

Brian Clarke

Redliners are the owners of deliberately loud and often illegal vehicles (under the Ontario Traffic Act) who flaunt the law and deny their fellow citizens the right to peace and quiet.

It’s a problem in many areas, but nowhere more so than at Canatara Park. Residents living near Lake Chipican Drive, Sandy Lane and adjacent Point Edward neighbourhoods can attest to their intrusion daily.

Sarnia’s redliners even have the audacity to list their “clubhouse” as 1200 Lake Chipican Dr., aka Canatara Park, and one vehicle boasts a decal stating: Too Loud Too Bad.

So it was gratifying to see Sarnia Police and the OPP conduct an enforcement blitz in and around the park last month and issue 19 charges, mostly for speeding. We hope it continues.

Many people aren’t aware these vehicles are consciously and illegally altered by their owners to produce maximum noise, and at levels that can impact human health.

Sound is measured in decibels. Like the scales for earthquakes and hurricanes, decibels do not increase one-to-one in intensity, but are logarithmic.

A whisper is about 30 dB, normal conversation is about 60 dB, and the average legally mufflered car travelling 100 kilometres per hour is about 80 dB.

However, an unmufflered car at redline has a dB between 105 and 130, according to the National Stock Car Racing Association.

Noise above 70 dB over a prolonged period can start to damage human hearing. And according to the Canadian Audiology Association, permanent hearing loss can occur, even from brief but intense sound.

Picture this scenario: An unsuspecting mom and toddler are walking one of the many paths at Canatara and a passing “redliner” oblivious to them decides to “Let ‘er rip.”

I asked Dr. Kim Eskritt of Lambton Audiology Associates about the potential impact that might have. She said because a child’s ear is smaller in volume the noise level at the eardrum is louder.

“Yes,” she said, “The same level of noise could be more dangerous for a child.”

The time for letters and petitions is well past their best before date. It’s time for action.

In addition to enhanced enforcement, a new municipal noise bylaw is needed with a generous allowable ceiling set at 95 dB. A few police cruisers could be equipped with professional grade decibel metres (with a printable record) for about $100 a unit.

The expense could quickly be recovered through tickets written for noise bylaw, illegal muffler and excessive noise offenses.

The onus could even be placed on the owners to present their repaired, legal vehicles at the police station to avoid additional fines.

As for the redliners out there, please avail yourselves of the race tracks in Grand Bend and Delaware where you can roar around to your heart’s content.

Brian. L. Clarke is a retiree with a keen interest in history and local affairs