Let’s face it, we all like to play loud music in our cars from time to time. However, we also need to acknowledge the other end of this equation. Nobody wants to hear cars ripping down the street in the middle of the night with loud music shaking the foundations of the surrounding buildings.
So let’s find a solution to this problem — is it illegal to play loud music in a car? In the best-case scenario, you may annoy the people around you. In the worst-case scenario, the authorities might seize your engine. The authorities can even prosecute you depending on whether you were driving while breaking the law or not.
Different countries have different laws when it comes to blasting your music while driving. However, as far as I can tell, none of these laws mention specific decibel values. Still, there are some ways to determine whether the music is too loud. So let’s talk about how the laws are set up.
U.S. Laws on Playing Loud Music in a Car
In the U.S., there are no federal laws that limit the volume at which you can play your music while you are driving. But then, that’s pretty much the case with all noise regulations. You can see as much in my answer to the question of how late you can play loud music. Basically, you should always check your state legislature.
For example, Florida actually has fairly helpful and clear laws regarding the “operation of sound-making devices in vehicles.” According to state laws, the sound that’s coming from these devices can’t be audible at a distance of 25 feet away from the car. Additionally, you can’t play your tunes louder than necessary for you to hear them, especially near churches, schools, and hospitals. So far, that’s all fairly straightforward — although you will notice that it doesn’t give us a decibel number.
California’s Vehicle Code is less strict than Florida’s. It actually allows sounds that are audible to people standing 50 feet away from the vehicle. Of course, there are some exceptions to these rules across the board.
Emergency and police vehicles are exempt from these laws, as are vehicles that have “business or political purposes.” So don’t go thinking that you can report one of those for being overly noisy. Honking is also permissible but only within a certain range, since you can’t have people lying on the horn.
However, I should also say that, according to NBC, the Florida Supreme Court loosened this restriction in 2012. Apparently, the Court deemed the law an “unreasonable restriction on the freedom of expression.”
Ultimately, most U.S. noise laws come down to intent. If a person is being deliberately disruptive and causing a commotion despite being told to turn the volume down — they may get a traffic violation.
UK Laws for Loud Music in a Car
If you want to know more about noise regulation laws in the UK, I suggest that you check out the article I’ve linked to at the beginning of the previous section. I find that comparing these laws in the U.S. and the UK can be pretty helpful for discerning the norm. So when can people in the UK get in trouble for playing loud music in their cars?
Sadly, the UK laws aren’t very well defined. Most of the time, the police officers that take the report have the final call. I can’t say that this type of subjective policing is doing anyone any favors.
Still, some UK laws do mention specific times during which excess vehicle noise is prohibited. For example, ice cream vans aren’t allowed to play music before noon and after 7 in the afternoon.
Legal and Other Consequences of Playing Loud Music
Despite everything I just told you, the consequences of driving around with loud music playing are fairly non-existent. Still, while there is no law that explicitly says how loud your music can be, you can certainly have problems with the law if you go overboard.
As a responsible individual, you should absolutely be aware of everything going on around you. You can’t disrupt and annoy people around you by being reckless. Not only can this type of behavior get you into trouble, but it can get other people into trouble as well. You may even indirectly cause a car crash, so you need to be very careful.
If you play your music too loud while driving, you might even block out your emergency siren and even another vehicle’s horn. As a result, you can easily cause a car crash and also reduce the response time of another emergency vehicle. These vehicles typically have very loud sirens that they use to alert others to make adequate room for them to pass through. If you play your music too loud, you are simply exposing everyone to great danger.
The number of people that play loud music in their vehicles seems to be rising every year. As a result, the authorities are more vigilant than ever to prevent this from happening.
Florida Example: Operating a Sound-Making Device in a Car
As I’ve mentioned already, no law states how loud your music can be. But with more restrictions on the way, we may get specific decibel regulations soon enough.
Still, I don’t want to leave you without a specific example of the kind of punishment someone might get for causing a commotion. So let’s just use Florida state law as an example, since I’ve already talked about it above. In Florida, operating a sound-making device in your car at a high volume is a “noncriminal traffic infraction.” Technically, it’s also a nonmoving violation since you wouldn’t get the ticket for the way you operated your car.
Typically, the person who violates these regulations would have to have a hearing. But really, this hardly ever happens. In fact, even if someone dies as a result of a noncriminal violation, the most the perpetrator would have to do is perform community service. At most, though, you’ll probably get a slap on the wrist — at least if you’re not a repeat offender.
So if you really want to enjoy loud music in your car, make sure you play it in a parking lot or another private area. Don’t do it in the open.
How to Avoid Getting Pulled Over for Loud Music
Obviously, none of what I’ve just told you is going to help you avoid a traffic violation. So here are some specific tips you can use to avoid getting pulled over:
- You should never play loud music in residential areas. Even if you’re just passing through the area, never play your music so loud that everyone can hear it. Chances are, someone will call the police and then you will be in great trouble.
- Always keep your windows up. No matter how loud (or silent) your music is, just roll up your windows to avoid disturbing the people around you. That way, they will absorb most non-bass sounds. Also, lower the volume of your subwoofers.
- Avoid playing songs with inappropriate lyrics at a high volume, particularly around schools. Very often, you can like a particular song, but you are completely unaware of the fact that the lyrics are downright offensive. Imagine how a parent would react if their child had to listen to such music? Never play this type of music loud in your car as chances are, someone will certainly report you to the authorities.
- If you are planning to play loud music in a parking lot, get permission to do that. As I’ve mentioned, the best way you can dodge problems that come with loud music is to play it in a more restricted area (like a parking lot). But, even then, you need to ensure that you have permission to do that. If you play loud music with plenty of people next to you, some of them will report you. Be reasonable all the time, and you won’t have these issues at all.
Even if the police pull you over, try to be non-confrontational. Most people just make things worse for themselves at this point. If you’re uncertain about a particular law, feel free to ask them what you need to do to ensure that you are not breaking it. You should already know this beforehand, but it’s a good idea to double-check everything to make sure that you are familiar with it.
If everything goes well, you may just get a simple warning. If not, you will have to explain your case to the judge. No matter what happens, though, you need to follow the law and do everything to ensure that you don’t end up in a situation like this.
Ultimately, the best way to avoid violating one of these noise laws is to soundproof your car. Now, there are many ways to do that. But if you had to focus your attention on one part of the car, I recommend working on the doors.
After all, that’s where the speakers are most of the time. So padding that area would prevent the speakers from rattling and the noise from spilling out. Besides, it would also give you a better sound quality inside of your car.
If you follow the guidelines above, you can be sure that you will never have problems with the authorities. Furthermore, you will be able to enjoy your favorite music without annoying anyone around you. And isn’t that what we’re all aiming for here?
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