Buckhead resident Anne McKillips says she wants her “quality of life back” in aiming to pass legislation that could automatically cite the owners of cars that produce excessive noise.
McKillips, a retired entrepreneur who lives near Lenox Road and Ga. 400, leads the volunteer-based Georgia Loud Cars Task Force, which is working with legislators to draft bills aimed at limiting vehicle noise through automated citations. The group recently began a petition that aims to draw support for the cause in the hopes it will spur legislators to take up the issue in 2024.
“The noise pollution in this world is incredible, and it needs to be brought under control,” McKillips said.
Group proposes use of noise detection cameras
McKillips and her volunteer task force plan to introduce legislation that will allow for the use of noise detection cameras statewide. Such camera systems have already been implemented in cities like Knoxville, Tennessee, and Miami, and New York City lawmakers are expected to allow their use soon, Forbes reported.
The noise detection cameras work like other automated traffic systems, including school zone speed cameras, McKillips said. They can be mounted near roadways, calibrated for that location, and will detect any cars surpassing a certain decibel threshold set by local lawmakers. When the system detects excessive vehicle noise from a car, the cameras can snap a photo of its license plate with a time, date, location and decibel stamp, allowing a citation to be issued to the registered owner of the car.
The task force is currently working with several Georgia House and Georgia Senate representatives, she said, to introduce bills in each house in 2024. Similar bills were proposed in the Legislature during the 2023 session, but they “went nowhere,” McKillips said, spurring the task force to continue drumming up support.
The group’s Change.org petition, which began Nov. 17, had garnered over 1,400 signatures as of Dec. 6.
“I’m hoping we can get people to circulate it to their entire network so we can say to the entire legislature this is important to the citizens of Georgia,” McKillips said.
The Loud Cars Task Force does not intend to mandate these cameras at any level, McKillips said. Rather, it wants the state to pass a bill to allow for their use statewide and leave the decision to use them up to local control.
“One of the things that’s really important in the bill, we want to make sure the state Legislature allows the noise detection technology but does not mandate it,” she said. “Every jurisdiction will make the decision to use it. We also want it so that every jurisdiction that implements it can set its own decibel level [limits]. For instance, Tuxedo Park needs a lower decibel level than Fulton Industrial [Boulevard]. We only want it available.”
She is certainly advocating for their use in Buckhead and the City of Atlanta, though.
Buckhead is purportedly a hotspot for car noise vehicle complaints
A study conducted by Georgia State University students found Peachtree Road had the highest number of vehicle noise complaints calls to the Atlanta Police Department from June 2021 to June 2023. Three-hundred calls were fielded by the APD during the two-year span. Neighborhood Planning Unit B — which includes North Buckhead, Buckhead Forest, South Tuxedo Park, Buckhead Heights, Peachtree Heights East and West, Garden Hills and Buckhead Village and other local areas — had the second highest noise complaint volume of the 25 NPUs within Atlanta, the study noted.
The vehicle noise around Buckhead is what inspired McKillips to create the task force around three years ago. At first, McKillips said she wanted people to continually call APD each time they heard an excessively loud car.
“I kept calling and calling,” she said. “After talking to some APD officers, they can’t do anything about it. If there’s a loud car, by the time they get there, it’s gone. There are more important things they have to address, and they don’t have the staff to sit everywhere and monitor [car noise levels].”
McKillips said excessively noisy cars have become a nuisance, but it goes beyond quality-of-life issues.
“We want to have noise pollution caused by cars, trucks, ATVs, anything, under control,” she said. “That’s our real goal. It affects wildlife, children with autism, it can cause strokes. I’m tired of it. If we don’t make it through this session, I’ll be back the following year.”
Difficulties exist in enforcing vehicle noise levels
A specific noise limit threshold that can be emitted from a car’s muffler is not outlined in state codes. However, it is a misdemeanor to sell or use a muffler “which causes excessive or unusual noise.” As such, it’s often up to an officer’s discretion to cite a car owner for excessive muffler noise, Lt. W. Mark Riley, former public information officer for the Georgia Department of Public Safety, told 11Alive in 2021.
State codes dictate that sounds produced from a car’s audio system cannot be heard at a distance of 100 feet or more from a vehicle, however.
The Loud Cars Task Force hopes that municipalities or counties would be able to use the passage of their proposed bill(s) to set specific decibel limits. McKillips said signs would also be posted to warn drivers of their use. State law requires such signs to be erected advising drivers of the use of speed detection and red-light cameras.