The news that Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council is considering handing out fines to drivers whom it deems to be making ‘excessive’ noise is more than a little worrying.
For a start, although the penalties and offences which can lead to a fine have been set out in great detail, very little has been said about how the rules will be enforced.
Remember, the proposed legislation means you can be handed with a £100 fine if you’re deemed to be making too much noise, either by revving your engine or by sounding your horn, as well as driving in convoy, racing or obstructing the road.
These are all valid points, let’s be clear on that. For the residents of Kensington and Chelsea, the nightly serenade of horsepower must be getting tiresome, but I can’t help but think this is going to lead to a kind of racial profiling for cars.
You just have to look at the language chosen by Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council head Nick Paget-Brown in his Guardian column today for evidence of this. In it, he says: “I know the joy of taking my wheels for a ride on a summer’s evening – but my Honda Jazz and Elgar CD are barely audible even at the kerbside.
So there you go - if you own a model from those named brands in that area, prepare to come under extra scrutiny if the plan goes forward. We all know that regular cars can be modified to be louder than most supercars, but it’s the big-name badges the council seems to be on the warpath against.
There’s also no mention made in the council’s proposal about how the limits of ‘excessive’ engine revving will be monitored. Who sets the limit, and to what? Is 6000rpm going to be a blanket rule? And what about motorbikes? You're effectively going to need to set an upper rev limit for every model.
The issue of what happens to repeat offenders also hasn't been made clear - although Paget-Brown does say in his column that "they might just find their cars being seized by police."
Let’s also not forget that legislation already exists to limit the noises made by cars. The Road Vehicles Regulations act of 1986 states that “No motor vehicle shall be used on a road in such manner as to cause any excessive noise which could have been avoided by the exercise of reasonable care on the part of the driver.”
Of course, these may be a perfectly sensible set of proposals by the time they're put into force, but in these early days of consultation I think the council may have gone too far. Threatening the car community with fines is unlikely to solve the problem, not least because for the kinds of people driving the majority of these cars, a few £100 fines are unlikely to trouble their bank managers.