Noise detecting cameras: how acoustic cameras work and where they are being installed in ‘boy racer’ crackdown

Four towns to test system that can identify illegally loud exhausts and issue fines as part of crackdown on noise pollution

A noise-detecting camera designed to catch anti-social “boy racers” is being trialled by police in four UK towns.

The camera has been installed in the Keighley area of Bradford, West Yorkshire as part of a £300,000 trial by the Department for Transport. Over the next two months it will be moved to Birmingham, Bristol and Great Yarmouth as part of efforts to clamp down on noise pollution. The four locations were chosen following a nationwide competition to find the areas facing the worst noise pollution from cars and motorbikes.

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The system uses a video camera with number plate recognition technology and several microphones to identify “excessively loud” vehicles as they pass. It captures images of the vehicle and records the noise levels to create a digital package of evidence which police can then use to issue fines to drivers breaking the law by revving their engines unnecessarily or using illegal exhausts. Vehicle engines and exhausts are not allowed to exceed 74 decibels and drivers can be fined £50 for breaking this limit.

The trial comes amid growing concern around the impact of noise pollution on people’s health and productivity. The DfT said that road noise was known to contribute to health problems such as heart attacks, strokes and dementia. It added that lost productivity from sleep disturbance and health costs linked to noise pollution was estimated to be up to £10 billion a year.

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Enforcing legal noise limits

Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “Rowdy road drivers beware – these new cameras will help the police clampdown on those who break the legal noise limits or use illegal modified exhausts to make excessive noise in our communities. We’ll be working closely with the local authorities and police to share any findings, and I hope that this technology paves the way for quieter, peaceful streets across the country.”

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She added that if the trial was a success the cameras could be rolled out nationwide.

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Noise Abatement Society chief executive Gloria Elliott said: “Excessively noisy vehicles and antisocial driving causes disturbance, stress, anxiety and pain to many. It is unsafe and disrupts the environment and people’s peaceful enjoyment of their homes and public places.

“Communities across the UK are increasingly suffering from this entirely avoidable blight. The Noise Abatement Society applauds rigorous, effective, evidence-based solutions to address this issue and protect the public.”

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The latest trial comes weeks after police in Devon and Cornwall began testing an AI-powered camera system designed to catch motorists using their phone or not wearing a seatbelt while driving. Figures from National Highways, which is working with police on the trial, revealed that in the first 64 hours of operation the system identified 152 drivers holding a mobile phone and 512 occupants without a seatbelt.

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