If you spent anytime out on the patio in Mount Vernon this summer, I'm sure you've heard the loud, obnoxious cars and motorcycles with modified exhaust systems and screaming, roaring engines that pierce the serenity of our peaceful neighborhoods, ("Mount Vernon Serenity Cut Short By Noisy Tailpipes," Mount Vernon Gazette, 10/8/2020). For the past two months I’ve been working with Alexandria, Fairfax County, Virginia State Police and other local officials to end this pervasive problem plaguing northern Virginia’s quiet neighborhoods, but with a recent legal proposal, it may get worse.
I live in an area where we’re used to the droning hum of traffic noise, the occasional airplane flyover and frequent sirens so noise is not new, but this fairly new phenomenon has risen dramatically since the start of the pandemic.
Maybe it’s the more open than usual roadways where racing and revving scofflaws feel like the world is their racetrack.
Certainly the prevalence of cars with souped up, over horse powered engines and aftermarket exhaust systems that amplify the already loud vehicle into an ear splitting loudspeaker, have taken over local roadways. At all hours of the night too.
So two months ago I engaged local law enforcement. I was told by our neighborhood Fairfax County Police liaison to call dispatch and they’ll send a car to the area. I made sure my neighbors knew of this tactic and prayed that it would work. But when I called the dispatcher, on several occasions, I was often told the same thing: there’s nothing we can do. The problem continued to get worse.
That’s when I contacted my local elected officials: Fairfax County Supervisor Storck, Delegate Krizek, and Senator Ebbin.
Again, everyone seemed receptive and Delegate Krizek was nice enough to ask to work with me on a solution. Senator Ebbin’s chief of staff did the same. Supervisor Storck’s staff weighed in with local authorities.
Here’s the punchline: while I’ve been talking with law enforcement and engaging with elected officials to solve this problem, the Virginia legislature was simultaneously passing a bill (SB 5029) that would allow MORE vehicle noise. In fact, get ready for this because it’s stunning — the Bill actually prohibits law enforcement from pulling over a car for broken brake lights or no brake lights at all, unsafe or defective equipment, no muffler or modified muffler that makes the car louder. There’s more to SB 5029 and I ask that you read it yourself and then call Governor Northam to ask him to veto it. The bill reads like a Saturday Night Live skit or an satirical Onion story.
Also, when you hear loud vehicles report it to your local law enforcement agency.
For all my efforts in trying to bring peace and quiet back to my neighborhood it’s been frustrating, to say the least, that Virginia lawmakers are actually working against me and my neighbors. Disappointingly, the elected officials who said they’d like to work with me on a solution voted to support SB 5029.
Eliminates certain vehicle equipment offenses or the odor of marijuana as pretexts for a stop or search by law enforcement.
Issuing citations; possession of marijuana and certain traffic offenses. Provides that no law-enforcement officer may lawfully stop a motor vehicle for operating (i) without a light illuminating a license plate, (ii) with defective and unsafe equipment, (iii) without brake lights or a high mount stop light, (iv) without an exhaust system that prevents excessive or unusual levels of noise, (v) with certain sun-shading materials and tinting films, and (vi) with certain objects suspended in the vehicle. No evidence discovered or obtained as a result of such unlawful stop shall be admissible in any trial, hearing, or other proceeding. The bill also provides that no law-enforcement officer may lawfully stop, search, or seize any person, place, or thing solely on the basis of the odor of marijuana, and no evidence discovered or obtained as a result of such unlawful search or seizure shall be admissible in any trial, hearing, or other proceeding. The bill prohibits the enactment of a local ordinance establishing a primary offense when the corresponding provision in the Code of Virginia is a secondary offense. The bill prohibits any local ordinance relating to the ownership or maintenance of a motor vehicle from being cause to stop or arrest a driver of a motor vehicle unless such violation is a jailable offense. The bill prohibits a law-enforcement officer from stopping a pedestrian for jaywalking or entering a highway where the pedestrian cannot be seen. The bill provides that law-enforcement officers are not permitted to stop a motor vehicle for an expired safety inspection or registration sticker until the first day of the fourth month after the original expiration date. The bill also provides that no evidence discovered or obtained due to an impermissible stop, including evidence obtained with the person's consent, is admissible in any trial, hearing, or other proceeding. This bill is identical to HB 5058.