Reva Steenbergen isn’t ready to give up her fight to silence the thundering vehicle exhausts that roar through Sarnia’s streets.
“It’s not just a matter of loud vehicles,” said the Sarnia woman, who has spent years pushing for stricter enforcement on the illegal and deafening exhaust systems of modified cars and trucks.
Excessive noise is harmful to health and quality of life, she said.
“It’s a violation of human rights.”
Steenbergen has collected more than 1,000 signatures on a petition, “Stop the Traffic Nightmare in Sarnia, Ontario.” And she’s bringing her fight to city council this month after a failed attempt to convince Sarnia Police to purchase decibel meters for police cruisers.
She’s now proposing an amendment to Sarnia’s noise bylaw to cover vehicle noise, “so that police have the authority to pull these people over without decibel meters and simply use their dashboard cam,” she told The Journal.
“It’s all about enabling the police to enforce tougher restrictions on these drivers that stand up in court, and a change in the bylaw will accomplish that.”
Sarnia Police Chief Norm Hansen maintains noise levels are difficult to enforce because it’s left to an officer’s discretion to decide who gets ticketed.
“That’s the biggest problem in court — it’s all opinion,” he said. “Believe me, a really loud muffler running around annoys me as well. It’s just that we can’t be everywhere at once, and we do what we can do.
“As the weather gets nicer we’ll certainly have officers out there enforcing that law.”
Last month, police in North Bay, Ont. laid more than 30 charges in the first week of a crackdown on loud and illegal modified vehicles. In addition to improper muffler and excessive noise charges, officers laid charges under the Environmental Protection Act “as a result of modified exhausts or the removal of a vehicle’s catalytic converter,” police said.
Last summer, Steenbergen appeared before the Sarnia Police Services Board to ask for stricter enforcement and the use of decibel-measuring devices. But a subsequent staff report dismissed the idea.
“My biggest concern is that unlike radar or Intoxilyzer devices, there is no set training or measurable standard as to what is deemed ‘excessive,’” Hanson said at the time.
“I know that in the eyes of the general public, enforcement and prosecution should be simple but it is not.
He recommended against spending thousands of dollars on a “possibly useless device.”
The Highway Traffic Act clearly states every motor vehicle must be equipped with a muffler in good working order and in constant operation to prevent excessive noise, Steenbergen notes.
And the law clearly prohibits car and truck enthusiasts from modifying the exhausts of their vehicles to make them louder.
“When these guys decide they want to go and lay heavy on the gas, the volume is more than intrusive — it’s gross, repetitive, abusive, violating, fearful noise. Something needs to be done,” she said.
Steenbergen said she’s heard from many residents who are tormented by the noise. Some live in her own apartment building, which she said has been targetted by aggressive car enthusiasts because she has spoken out against them.
“It’s a matter of what that’s doing to the babies in the building, and the elderly people… the man with twins whose windows face the street,” she said.
“If someone doesn’t stand up and do something, nothing is going to change.”