Noise-detecting traffic cameras will be trialled in four areas in England in an attempt to crack down on “boy racers” who rev engines and use illegal exhausts, the Department for Transport has announced.
The so-called noise cameras will be installed on the roadside in Bradford on Tuesday, before a rollout in Bristol, Great Yarmouth and Birmingham over the next two months.
A video camera will photograph vehicles and several microphones will record sound to help identify road users who break the law by revving their engines unnecessarily or use illegal exhausts as they drive by.
The technology – in which the government has pledged to invest £300,000 and tested on a private track – will be used to create a digital package of evidence that can be used by police to fine drivers.
The announcement comes after a government-backed competition was launched in April to identify some of the worst-affected areas. Members of parliament applied for the cameras to be set up in their constituency and winning locations were decided based on the severity of the problem.
The transport secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said: “Rowdy road drivers beware – these new cameras will help the police clamp down on those who break the legal noise limits or use illegal modified exhausts to make excessive noise in our communities.
“We will be working closely with the local authorities and police to share any findings, and I hope this technology paves the way for quieter, peaceful streets across the country.”
A technical consultant for the trials, Atkins-Jacobs Joint Venture, sought to assure drivers that the cameras would be “highly targeted”, honing in only on those making excessive noise.
Noise pollution has been linked to stress, cardiovascular disease, strokes and dementia. The World Health Organization has calculated that at least 1m healthy life years are lost every year in western Europe because of environmental noise.
According to UK government figures, the annual social cost of urban road noise, including lost productivity from sleep disturbance and healthcare, is estimated at about £10bn.
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The Noise Abatement Society welcomed the introduction of noise cameras. “Excessively noisy vehicles and antisocial driving cause disturbance, stress, anxiety and pain to many,” the charity’s chief executive, Gloria Elliott, said.
“It is unsafe and disrupts the environment and people’s peaceful enjoyment of their homes and public places. Communities across the UK are increasingly suffering from this entirely avoidable blight. The Noise Abatement Society applauds rigorous, effective, evidence-based solutions to address this issue and protect the public.”
The trials will continue for two months across the country. If successful, the cameras could be rolled out nationwide.