WATERVILLE — The warm weather is bringing out chirping birds, but apparently loud tailpipes are drowning them out.
And startling motorists, waking people at night and disturbing them as they sit outside and on porches.
Police plan to help change that.
As of Thursday, officers were stopping motorcycles, cars and trucks whose exhaust systems are too loud, according to police Chief Joseph Massey. They will issue warnings for about two weeks to raise awareness, but violators will be ticketed after that, Massey said. Tickets are under $200, he said.
People have been complaining to police and City Manager Michael Roy that some motorcyclists are revving their engines at traffic lights and beneath overpasses, as well as when they drive through downtown where the noise is amplified as it echoes off the closely built buildings, Massey said.
“It’s just unreasonable — it’s unnecessary that exhausts are so loud they rattle windows,” he said. “They do it mainly for attention.”
Sometimes people can hear motorcycles and cars with loud exhausts coming from a half-mile away, according to Massey.
“It’s a quality of life issue. It really pollutes the peace and tranquility in the community,” he said. “People are disturbed by that and rightfully so, particularly at night.”
In 2010, a Maine law went into effect that says noise from exhaust systems may not be louder than what the manufacturer intended.
Police may use their judgment in deciding if the noise level exceeds that of standard exhaust systems, he said.
An officer, for instance, can look to see if straight pipes, cut-outs or baffles have been removed from an exhaust system and then determine if the noise resulting from modifications exceeds the noise level that was present with the system as it came from the manufacturer, he said.
“They use the word ‘reasonableness,'” he said.
He said when police enforced the law after it was first enacted, he received some backlash.
“I expect it will provoke a lot of concern and criticism and that type of thing,” he said Thursday. “People just need to know what the law is.”
Jeffrey Flye, director for United Bikers of Maine’s Kennebec County group, said his organization tries to get the word out to everyone about education, safety and riding with courtesy.
Some bikers apparently spoil it for others, he said.
“We don’t want those few to give the rest of us a bad name,” he said. “By all means, if somebody is not observing the law, we expect that they should be ticketed.”
Flye said May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and United Bikers attended a tea Wednesday with Gov. Paul LePage and John Morris, commissioner of the Maine Department of Public Safety.
“We’re more than willing to work with local law enforcement to get the word out,” Flye said.
Meanwhile, Massey recommended that anyone with concerns access the Maine.gov website and read Title 29A of Maine law governing motor vehicles. People may also take a vehicle or motorcycle to an inspection station and ask if it would pass inspection with its present exhaust system, he said.
He emphasized that violators are in the minority.
“The vast majority of motorcyclists and motor vehicle operators comply with the law, and I really do appreciate that,” Massey said.
Amy Calder — 861-9247