WATERVILLE — After hearing complaints about loud exhaust sounds on city streets, Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey is planning to step up enforcement of rules prohibiting excessively loud vehicle exhaust.

While the Waterville Police Department will be looking for all vehicles that violate the state law on excessive or unusual exhaust noise, the six complaints the department has received in the last month have all been about motorcycle noise, Massey said.

“We want to go after those vehicles that are ridiculously loud, not just the ones that emit a little more noise than normal” Massey said. “The law is very specific, if you alter your exhaust system for the purpose of emitting a louder noise, that is illegal. People want to know they can enjoy the peace and tranquility of their homes without their windows rattling.”

The state statute, which was revised in 2009, says “A person may not operate a motor vehicle unless that vehicle is equipped with an adequate muffler properly maintained to prevent excessive or unusual noise.”

The law defines excessive or unusual noise as anything noticeably louder than similar vehicles in the same environment.

Dave Lefebvre, owner of The Starting Line, a Waterville motorcycle shop, said that most motorcycle enthusiasts agree that excessively loud exhausts are obnoxious, but the law allows subjectivity.

He said whether exahust is too loud “is a judgment call in a lot of cases.”

“It leaves a lot to interpretation for the mechanic doing the inspection. If he thinks it’s not unusually loud or excessively loud compared to similar vehicles, he can put a sticker on it. What’s going to happen is when people get pulled over they’ll pull their inspection sticker out and say the bike is legal.”

Massey has heard the arguments that enforcement is too subjective, but he doesn’t see the interpretation as more questionable than other laws, such as as a disorderly conduct charge that stems from noise complaints.

“The Legislature often passes laws that require officers to use their five senses to make decisions,” Massey said. “I have the confidence that trained officers can make common sense decisions and use reasonable judgment whether it’s too loud or not.”

Massey also said that while the complaints against motorcycles have risen recently, the majority of riders obey the law and limit the noise in congested areas.

Lefebvre, who admitted to modifying his muffler for a louder sound when he was younger, said most riders don’t enjoy riding with someone whose motorcycle is excessively loud.

“I think it’s kind of an ego thing with a lot of people,” he said. “It’s not fun to ride with loud bikes. When I was young I did it, but I don’t like it anymore. People think they’re going faster and have a lot more power between their legs, but they really don’t.”

Jesse Scardina — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @jessescardina