Whether in the countryside or in the city: traffic noise is irritating – and can make you sick. To identify particularly loud drivers and cyclists, NRW now requires audio cameras. But there is also criticism.
Howling engines, screeching tires: loud drivers and motorcyclists get on the nerves of many people, especially in summer with the windows open. In cities, they are posers of cars with improved sleds, in the countryside they are more motorcyclists on their popular routes.
In Nideggen in the Eifel, for example, many people close their windows at night despite the high temperatures. Nideggen mayor Marco Schmunkamp (freelance) also hears bikers late into the night, although, he says, he lives a bit away from their favorite routes. Citizens regularly complain about noise during the day and night. Schmunkamp is not only the mayor, but also the chairman of the Silent Riders initiative: he wants to stop drivers from excessively loud machines.
Rather than speeding, speed cameras measure noise levels
The initiative calls for the use of sound cameras. Unlike speed cameras, devices do not measure speed, but the noise level of cars and motorcycles. Loud drivers could be identified by a camera and a license plate reader. The goal is to speed up fines with decibels instead of kilometers per hour. Such noise cameras are currently being tested in France and Switzerland.
Calls for this are also getting louder in North Rhine-Westphalia. “Motorcyclists say you are taking our freedom,” says Schmunkamp. “But freedom ends where I limit someone else. For example, if someone thinks they have to drive loud through the city in second gear. ”
Sound cameras are required not only in the Eifel but also in Hamm in Westphalia. There, the CDU called on the city to submit an application for a pilotage with the state. In Dortmund, the CDU and the Greens are jointly calling for the use of sound cameras to be investigated.
In the worst case, traffic noise is harmful to health
Traffic noise suddenly comes on, making it the most unpleasant source of noise, says acoustics expert Brigitte Schulte-Fortkamp. “You never know exactly when a noise will occur, how loud it will be and how long it will last,” says the noise researcher. You never really get used to such street noise – even if you tell yourself. “It’s a mistake and it’s also dangerous,” explains Schulte-Fortkamp. Persistent street noise is especially annoying at night – and can make you sick in the long run: in addition to stress and anxiety, there is a risk of cardiovascular disease in the worst case.
The police are currently responsible for controlling traffic noise, often using their own measuring devices. The maximum permitted decibel level for a vehicle is stated in the vehicle registration certificate. Noise cameras do not need policemen on their side. However, in Germany these devices are currently neither used nor tested. Is the technology too complicated? No, says a spokesman for the Federal Association for Road Safety in Berlin. The development and production of sound cameras is “not rocket science at all.” However, the use of devices comes with high legal hurdles.
Production without rocket science, but lacking technology
First of all, there is a lack of technology that would legally safely assign noise levels to individual cars or motorbikes, says a spokesman for the North Rhine-Westphalia Ministry of the Interior in Düsseldorf. This is because secondary noise, for example from oncoming traffic, should not be taken into account in the measurement.
For the ministry, the soundproofing cameras therefore remain essentially an ‘interesting project’. A penalty, as in the case of exceeding the speed limit, is currently impossible, because the catalog of fines does not provide an appropriate decibel scale.
Required noise limits
The mayor of Schmunkamp and “Silent Riders” are therefore calling for noise limits in cities and towns. For example, drivers who manipulated exhaust systems could be exposed more quickly. “But in Germany we are still a long way from that,” says Schmunkamp.
Instead, mild noise control devices have been used on the roads in North Rhine-Westphalia for several years: the so-called noise displays. Two of these displays are installed near Wermelskirchen. Illuminated screens are to encourage quiet driving with the words “Pssst … RESPECT!” When a particularly loud person is approaching.