In-Depth: Cameras could soon help catch street takeovers, loud cars in San Diego

Bill directs CHP to study noise camera technology
Street light cameras.jpg
Posted at 6:03 AM, Aug 01, 2022

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A bill in the California Legislature would bring the state one step closer to using traffic cameras as a way to identify and cite drivers whose cars violate noise laws.

SB 1079 asks California Highway Patrol to study three different "loud exhaust cameras" over the next two years.

"We have the technology, we should use it," says Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-Pasadena), the sponsor of the bill. "Street racing and modified mufflers are causing harm, and we should be dealing with it sooner rather than later."

Initially, Portantino's bill called for six cities to deploy the cameras and begin using them immediately. As it stands now, the new law would only allow CHP to study their effectiveness. The CHP could place the cameras on city streets or on the freeways. They'll have until Jan. 1, 2025, to study how they work and file a report to the Legislature.

Portantino says he hopes they can answer some crucial questions about the cameras.

"Is it fail-safe technology? Are we doing something that we shouldn't be doing? Is it an effective tool? How accurate is it?"

California law says cars cannot exceed 95 decibels. But it forbids cities from using camera technology to measure and track cars on the road.

If SB 1079 passes, the legislature would then have to pass another bill to allow cities to use loud exhaust cameras.

Car enthusiasts, like the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) say they support the idea, as long as the technology is up to speed.

"We want to make sure that the technology works and is ready for primetime," says Christian Robinson, SEMA's Director of Government Affaris. "Then, individual cities where they've identified those problem areas can implement that technology and start enforcing the existing laws by using it."

This summer, San Diego Police told ABC 10News that loud exhaust, speed racing, and street takeovers have all been on the rise throughout the pandemic. Because the bill is still working it's way through the legislature, a handful of law enforcement agencies declined to comment on the idea of using cameras to help with enforcement.

SB 1079 has already passed the Senate. On August 3, it will come up for a vote in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. It would still need approval from the full Assembly, and the Governor's signature, before CHP could start their study.