Luis Burbano is tired of what he considers excessive noise and speed from vehicles on a residential street in south Everett.
The 38-year-old engineer at Boeing has used a home security camera to track drivers on Dakota Way for almost two years. Videos show late-night burnouts and drivers vrooming and zooming down the road.
Even through muddled audio, the sounds of throaty engines roaring and sputtering is clear.
“At night, it will wake you up,” said Burbano, whose 2-year-old daughter has been jolted awake by passing motorists. “Then everybody is awake.”
Loud cars have drawn lawmakers’ attention around the world in recent years.
In Victoria, Australia, the city requires some owners to get their vehicle noise emissions tested before it can legally be on the road. Violations cost $908.70 and the penalty for ignoring the summons carries a $1,090 fine that reaches more than $5,000 if it goes to court, according to Drive.com.
Some U.S. states, including Florida, New York and Virginia, recently passed new laws targeting loud cars.
Seattle made an ordinance against mufflers in 2018.
There’s science behind the decisions instead of just a collective grumble of “it’s too darn loud.”
The World Health Organization and Europe’s Joint Research Centre published a 2011 study linking traffic noise with disease. Noise from vehicles is considered a physiological stressor akin to second-hand smoke.
Everett has a code establishing maximum vehicle noise levels. The limit depends on the speed and a vehicle’s weight, with those over 10,000 lbs. having a higher cap than other vehicles.
There were over 2,000 noise complaints last year in Everett, according to open data published by the city. But the source — home, vehicle or other — of those complaints isn’t identified in the online data portal.
Since 2015, there have been 22 noise ordinance cases opened by the Everett Police Department. Of those, the location type wasn’t specified for 16 cases and all but three were closed.
It’s difficult to enforce traffic violations for noise based on RCW 46.37.390 because an officer must witness it, Everett police spokesperson Kerby Duncan said in an email.
“Vehicle noise complaints are one of many important quality-of-life issues we work to address as a department,” Duncan wrote. “We do so by educating our public (we had social media over the summer with clarification on muffler laws), emphasis patrols from our motors unit, proactive patrols, and of course, responding to 911 complaints… the law does not allow us to write citations based upon the word or video of a witness.”
The Everett Police Department traffic unit is comprised of two detectives, two motorcycle units and six patrol officers. The motorcycle units usually conduct emphasis patrols, and patrol officers respond to collision and DUI reports, as well as traffic complaints, Duncan said.
Staffing shortages have hit the traffic unit, as one of the motorcycle unit officers was temporarily reassigned to background investigations for department candidates.
The department’s leaders aim to add another four to eight officers to the motorcycle unit, which would focus on vehicle noise and other “quality of life” issues, Duncan said.
Speeding worries Burbano enough he built a raised planter between his house and the road, just in case.
His hopes for Dakota Way are different than a tech-driven approach like Miami Beach’s noise-detecting cameras or Everett’s proposed red-light cameras.
Instead he wants the city to install speed bumps or chicanes, curb extensions that divert the lane from a straight line. Both options could lower travel speeds, he said.
“Those engineering solutions would take care of most of the cars,” Burbano said.
Speed bumps have fallen out of favor among engineers, often citing data that shows speeds increase between the raised concrete humps. In other places, speed humps have proven effective, particularly at reducing injuries to children pedestrians.
Tyler Rourke, an active transportation advocate who heads the city’s Transportation Advisory Committee of appointed volunteers, agrees with Burbano’s position. He has asked city leaders to change Everett’s public right-of-way in favor of greater biking and walking access.
Over 42,000 people died in vehicle crashes last year, according to an estimate from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“We just shrug our shoulders,” Rourke said. “We don’t take a look at our systems, at the design of our roads or the design of cars.”
Road work is expensive, so changing a street even as short as Dakota Way could cost millions of dollars. But Burbano thinks the city could combine some infrastructure to make it safer, such as chicanes that double as stormwater runoff basins.
“I just hope they do something about it,” Burbano said.
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