In Brief

Panel clears anti-boom car bill, but drops strictest provisions

By: - January 23, 2023 5:45 pm

Assemblyman Bill Spearman said the bill is intended to prevent cars from driving through neighborhoods with music playing "so loud that it literally makes your windows shake." (Hal Brown for New Jersey Monitor)

An Assembly panel approved a bill that would create fines for drivers of loud cars Monday, but amendments removed the proposal’s most draconian provisions, including ones that would have let authorities impound noisy vehicles.

The bill unanimously approved by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee would create new penalties for drivers whose vehicles violate state or local noise controls in an effort to combat the booming sound systems keeping some residents up at night.

“Vehicles ride through the neighborhoods at three or four in the morning, and the music is so loud that it literally makes your windows shake,” said Assemblyman Bill Spearman (D-Camden), the bill’s prime sponsor and the committee’s chair.

Spearman said the mayors in Camden, Pennsauken, and Delran, among others, brought the issue to his attention, and he noted Philadelphia recently passed an ordinance to combat so-called “boom cars” in the City of Brotherly Love.

As amended, the legislation would impose escalating fines on drivers who violate local or state noise ordinances. Violators would pay $250 for the first offense and twice as much for the second. On the third offense, the penalty would rise to $750 and add two points onto a driver’s license.

Those fines are reduced from an earlier version of the bill that would have fined first-time offenders $500 and all others $750. The old version would also have included towing and storage costs, likely raising the cost of a first offense beyond $700, but those provisions no longer apply.

Before being amended, the bill was modeled off state law governing recreational vehicles, like dirt bikes and ATVs, that may only be legally used off-road.

That meant provisions that allow authorities to seize ATVs and dirt bikes driven on public roads could have applied to loud cars that are otherwise street legal, but Spearman said that was never the intent.

“We’re not going to take somebody’s $60,000 car because they’re playing the music too loud,” he said. “That’s crazy.”

The amendments also refocus the bill around state and local noise ordinances, abandoning a subjective standard. The Noise Control Act bars noise above 50 decibels between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., and the law allows municipalities to adopt stricter standards.

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Nikita Biryukov
Nikita Biryukov

Nikita Biryukov most recently covered state government and politics for the New Jersey Globe. His tenure there included revelatory stories on marijuana legalization, voting reform and Rep. Jeff Van Drew's decamp to the Republican Party. Earlier, he worked as a freelancer for The Home News Tribune and The Press of Atlantic City.