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As reported by Fred Smith at Car & Driver and a few other folks around the internet, New York governor Kathy Hochul just signed a bill making the maximum fine for having too loud of an exhaust system $1,000. That’s right, four-whole figures. What does this mean for enthusiasts?

Welcome to Headlight. This is a daily news feature that lights up one current event in the car world and breaks it down by three simple subheadings: What Happened, Why It Matters, and What To Look For Next. Look for it in the morning (Eastern time) every weekday.

What Happened

This bill is known as SLEEP (for Stop Loud and Excessive Exhaust Pollution). Normally, cheesy legalese acronyms like this are a major eye-roll, but credit where credit’s due. Part of the reason why the state of New York is doing this is to help curb illegal street racing, which has purportedly increased a lot since COVID. And, yes, improve quality of life in places like NYC where extremely loud car exhausts are in some cases a nuisance.

The bill includes a provision that will take away an official state inspection station’s license if they’re caught installing a louder-than-stock exhaust system more than three times.

We can understand wanting to limit vehicle noise. And even many car enthusiasts would agree that “loud for loud’s sake” is often lame and there is such a thing as “too loud.” But if a law comes into the mix limiting any exhaust noise above stock levels would effectively ban any aftermarket exhausts at all. Hell, it could effectively limit all kinds of car mods if the state really figures out how to crack down on any car that is any way louder than it would have been from the factory.

For a detailed look at the bill itself on the state of New York senate’s website, have a gander here.

Why It Matters

This is a classic case of ne’er-do-wells ruining automotive enthusiasm for everybody, and the state coming back with ultra-harsh fines that rain on everybody’s parade, not just those engaged in illegal activities.

Improving a car’s exhaust note is one of the cornerstones of automotive tuning. By and large, quality aftermarket exhaust systems improve the tone and bump the volume up slightly, barely ever to annoying levels.

How the state intends to uphold this law in practice remains to be seen. What will the maximum decibel limit be? How will the exhaust’s decibel level be measured? Will this be totally dependent upon an officer’s discretion? There were similar concerns when the state of California ratcheted up its fining methods for having “too loud” of an exhaust.

The bill itself is a tad fuzzy. In one section, it details that “every motor vehicle, operated or driven upon the highways of the state, shall at all times be equipped with an adequate muffler and exhaust system in constant operation and properly maintained to prevent any excessive or unusual noise and no such muffler or exhaust system shall be equipped with a cut-out, bypass, or similar device. No person shall modify the muffler or exhaust system of a motor vehicle in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the motor or exhaust system of such vehicle above that emitted by the muffler or exhaust system originally installed on the vehicle and such original muffler and exhaust system shall comply with all the requirements of this section.”

What constitutes adequate, excessive, or unusual?

What about cars that come equipped from the factory with active exhaust systems, such as the Jaguar F-Pace SVR? Past a certain RPM and with the right amount of throttle position, the Jag’s ECU automatically opens up a baffle and significantly increases the exhaust system’s volume. It sounds so good, by the way. The bill states that cut-outs and bypasses aren’t allowed -do they mean aftermarket? In the eyes of the law, is the F-Pace SVR now illegal? The Hyundai Veloster N, BMW M3 and M4, Toyota GR Supra 3.0, and many more enthusiast platforms, have some method of opening up the exhaust and bumping up decibels.

What To Look For Next

If the bill is more adequately defined with decibel limits, how to measure it, and so forth, that’s one thing. But if the state of New York is simply flying by the seat of its pants here, that’s quite annoying for enthusiasts within its borders. Could any cop in a bad mood issue a $1,000 ticket to somebody with a barely-louder-than-factory exhaust system?

We’re thinking this will be the second verse of what happened in California, where people will be issued tickets and put through all sorts of hoops because that law was so poorly executed. Though, if consumers can get the car ref’d by a state official and have it deemed OK, like we now have in California (and had before that annoying law came about), that would be a much better move.

The C&D article also mentions that other senators have suggested installing nighttime speed cameras in popular drag racing areas, as well as installing noise detecting tools to identify and track loud cars. While the former indeed sounds like a legitimate method, as an easily measurable variable, speed, is the focus. However, the latter seems too expensive and complicated for widespread usage.

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