Decibel standards tough to enforce

I live on Jacksonville Highway between Medford and Jacksonville. Because of the location of my home I am subject to a fair amount of noise from the traffic and can't help but notice that the majority of motorcycles are ridiculously loud. A vehicle can be cited for being too loud and yet motorcycles are unbelievably loud.

And thanks to our beautiful summer weather and gorgeous landscape, my summer mornings, afternoons and evenings are marred by the roar of what seem to be mostly "over the hill," "recapturing their youth" men who travel in huge packs thereby making the noise last sometimes for nearly five minutes!

Maybe, due to the average age of these guys, they need the volume turned up so they can hear themselves and stir up all that testosterone, but I just wonder why it is allowed. It would sure be nice to hear the birds while I still have my hearing!

— B.B, Central Point

Without any editorial comment toward your description of motorcycle riders, I'll address your issue regarding vehicle noise. Oregon Revised Statutes 815.250 covers operating without a proper exhaust system. It states that a person commits the offense of operation without proper exhaust system if the person drives or moves on any highway a motor vehicle that is not equipped with an exhaust system that meets the requirements under this section:

  • The exhaust system must be in good working order.
  • The exhaust system must be in constant operation.
  • The exhaust system must meet noise emission standards based upon a stationary test conducted at a distance of 25 feet.

Under the third requirement listed above, for motorcycles, the maximum decibel level for pre-1976 models is 94 decibels, for 1976 models the level is 91 decibels, and for post-1976 models is 89 decibels.

Violations of this statute are a Class C traffic violation, bail being $145.

The main problems with enforcing this statute for us, is that what exactly does greater than 89 decibels of noise sound like?

Without decibel meters to give a specific number to which we could testify, it would be difficult to cite and defend the citation. I would have a hard time citing based upon my opinion that it sounded too loud.

It's like citing people with tinted windows by saying that they looked too dark without having the meter to test the window and give us an exact percentage of light coming through the window to compare to the legal tint allowances.

Maybe with the coming budget year I'll search for the cost of decibel meters and see if I can add a few to our array of equipment. But until then, unless the exhaust system is not working at all or not in constant operation, it will remain a difficult law for us to enforce.

Dace Cochran, a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, writes a weekly Q&A column on police issues for the Mail Tribune. Have a question for him? Write to Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501, or e-mail

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