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Posted: July 17, 2011

Washington County Sheriff's Department Motorcycle Noise Concerns
By John Reblin, ABATE of Wisconsin District 1 Director

On July 6th I had a local ABATE of Wisconsin regional rep give me a call about some complaints he had received from some members of his region riding their bikes and being pulled over by police in Washington County. After accelerating quickly from a stop sign they were given warnings about loud and unnecessary noise. This happened in a couple of different locations but under the same circumstances, accelerating loudly and quickly from a stop sign. ABATE Member Steve Panten called me and he had heard the same reports and since he had a good relationship from the Washington County Sheriff he agreed to call the sheriff to talk to him. After a short time he got this emailed response from Sheriff Schmidt:

"Today I am reaching out to representatives in the motorcycle industry to make them aware of my position on motorcycle noise enforcement.

"For many years now I have received complaints from citizens about excessive noise from motorcycles. Like most law enforcement agencies, this department has done very little to curb the excessive noise. Defining and measuring excessive noise, lack of knowledge of equipment laws by Deputies and a strong culture of motorcycle riding in this area have all contributed to the current situation. As I am sure you know this is not specific to this county but a statewide and even nationwide concern. Even the AMA has attempted to address this concern from inside the industry by publishing suggested solutions in its Sound Advice Document."

He goes on to say that he has committed department resources to researching and developing a training program that would educate Washington County Deputies on motorcycle exhaust equipment and the ordinances that apply to excessive noise. They have completed that training. For approximately one month now they have included excessive motorcycle noise enforcement in their daily patrols. The focus is to be on straight and un-baffled exhaust and excessive noise display. This is not to be a short time initiative but to be a routine part of the Deputies normal motor vehicle enforcement duties. Sheriff Schmidt is "trying to establish a new 'expectation' of motorcycle operators; one that conforms to existing laws and is acceptable to the greater community who has grown tired of hearing excessively loud motorcycles."

He included a list of state laws that mufflers and motorcycle exhaust including adequate muffler and functioning exhaust system and Washington County Ordinances addressing excessive acceleration and loud exhaust with penalties ranging from warnings to $213.10 citations.

The sheriff is reaching out to us to spread his word to educate motorcyclists to use common sense on the choice of exhaust system and choose a baffled system and to continue our message of throttle management to reduce noise complaints.

I have talked with Sheriff Schmidt on Right Of Way violations and Steve worked with him on other issues and we both found him fair with motorcyclists and willing to work with us. He is not a person that wants to create new laws but will use and enforce existing laws to accomplish what's needed in noise reduction to satisfy the residents in Washington County.

John Reblin


Added by ABATE of Wisconsin Legislative Committee

The following are the current WI Statutes and Transportation Codes Describing Motorcycle Exhaust Requirements. These WI statutes describe what is required for motorcycle exhaust systems. Some of those apply to all vehicles including motorcycles: we have arranged things in common sense order.

These are WI Statute sections that apply.

347.39(1)
(1) No person shall operate on a highway any motor vehicle subject to registration unless such motor vehicle is equipped with an adequate muffler in constant operation and properly maintained to prevent any excessive or unusual noise or annoying smoke. This subsection also applies to motor bicycles.

347.486(3)
(3) No person may operate a motorcycle without a functioning muffler

347.39(3)
(3) In this section, "muffler" means a device consisting of a series of chambers of baffle plates or other mechanical design for receiving exhaust gases from an internal combustion engine and which is effective in reducing noise.

347.39(2)
(2) No muffler or exhaust system on any vehicle mentioned in sub.(1) shall be equipped with a cutout, bypass or similar device nor shall there be installed in the exhaust system of any such vehicle any device to ignite exhaust gases so as to produce flame within or without the exhaust system. No person shall modify the exhaust system of any such motor vehicle in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the motor of such vehicle above that emitted by the muffler originally installed on the vehicle, and such original muffler shall comply with all the requirements of this section.

These are WI Transportation sections that also apply.

Trans 305.39(1)
(1) Every motorcycle shall be equipped with a functioning exhaust system that is maintained in proper working condition so as to reduce engine noise. The exhaust system shall be maintained in conformity with this section and section 347.39 WI statutes.

Trans 305.39(2)
(2) Every exhaust system shall be maintained free of leaks from the engine exhaust ports through the piping and muffler to the end of the exhaust system. A protective shield or insulated section shall be provided for any portion of the exhaust system that extends above and to the rear of the foot pegs or rests.
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