Lowering the Boomon Car-Stereo Volume

By Travis Baker | Road Warrior
November 25, 2005

Dale Alvestad of Bremerton wrote to ask if there is any law regulating car stereo volume.

"If so," he asked, "does anyone enforce the law? I would like to propose a $1,000 fee on boom box installation sites, per installation, to help enforce the law, if it exists."
He adds that he has a tactic he uses against "the noise machines on wheels."
"When there's a car behind me at a red light, with its volume set for 'six blocks' and the light turns green... I'm busy.

"I'm doing everything in and around my car except looking at the light or moving forward, until the light turns yellow. Then at the very last minute I discover the gas pedal.

"Sometimes this tactic works, sometimes the noise machine with a child at the wheel just runs the light behind me ... and follows me until I pull over for coffee."

The out basket: Well, it's not a ploy I'd recommend. For starters, there would almost always be other drivers behind the one being "disciplined," who would also be delayed. Also, it would add to anxiety, hostility and probably violence on the highways.

Coincidentally, the week I got Dale's e-mail, twice I had that very thing happen to me — a car ahead of me waited at a green light until only it could get through. My wife complains that I have the music too loud in the car, but it's just a conventional sound system. I doubt that it's audible very far outside the car.

I'm hoping this isn't some anti-noise rebellion being touted on the jungle telegraph.

Anyway, I only asked the county sheriff's office the question, and Deputy Scott Wilson said it is illegal for noise to be audible more than 50 feet away from the source, excepting power equipment like lawn mowers, leaf blowers, chain saws, nail guns and works saws, which are unregulated between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Nothing is supposed to be louder than that after 10 p.m. and car stereos are to comply with the 50-foot limit all day.

Scott says he usually will ask someone breaking that ordinance to turn the volume down, "and they grudgingly do." Some don't and get arrested. The fine can go up to $250, and jail time of up to 90 days also is a possibility, though I doubt that either ever reaches those maximums.

Cities will have their own rules. I once saw an officer standing in the landscaping along Ruston Way near Tacoma. I asked him what he was doing and he said he was on car stereo patrol. If he could hear a passing stereo from there, it was in violation and other officers out on the street were waiting to issue a citation.

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