Green on the map identifies the three states that have enacted SEMA model legislation to provide enthusiasts and law enforcement officials with a fair and enforceable alternative. The model legislation establishes a 95-decibel exhaust noise limit based on an industry standard adopted by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). Under this standard (SAE J1169), a sound meter is placed 20 inches from the exhaust outlet at a 45-degree angle and the engine is revved to three quarters of maximum rated horsepower. The highest decibel reading is then recorded.
Previous California law allowed modifications so long as the noise levels did not exceed the 95 decibel limit. However, the roadside enforcement of this limit was chaotic, leading to subjective, selective, and improper enforcement.
Enforcement of the previous law and regulations in California, for example, resulted in many drivers being pulled over by state and local police and cited for improper modified exhaust systems despite having what they believed to be legal aftermarket exhausts. To prove our point (and educate ourselves) about the widespread improper enforcement of the previous California exhaust law, SEMA conducted a series of exhaust noise tests in early April of 2001. First, we contacted California SEMA Action Network members to see how many folks had received citations for excessive or modified exhaust. We were surprised and dismayed to learn how many fit the category! We then invited them to have their cars tested to see if they actually complied with California law. Finally, we hired a board-certified acoustical engineer and did the testing according to the standards set out in California law. Long story short, of the cars we tested only one exceeded the 95db legal level.
To remedy this problem, in 2002 SEMA helped enact a new enforcement procedure in California through its model bill. The new law forces compliance with an objectively measured standard in a fair and predictable test. Through this procedure, motorists who drive vehicles legally equipped with modified exhaust systems can confirm that they comply with California's exhaust noise standard. The California Bureau of Automotive Repair began operation of the motor vehicle exhaust noise-testing program in 2003. The law also allows courts to dismiss citations for exhaust systems that have been tested and for which a certificate of compliance has been issued. Under the program, the 40 Smog Check stations statewide that provide referee functions are performing the test. These referee stations are issuing certificates of compliance for vehicles when tests of their exhaust systems demonstrate that they emit no more than 95 decibels, under the SAE test procedure. However, only those vehicles that have received a citation for an exhaust noise violation are permitted to submit their vehicle for the test. A similar standard was enacted in Maine in 2003 and Montana in 2007.
SEMA Action Network Maintains Record of Achievement
Gridlock and bitter partisan politics continue to persist in Washington, D.C. and in the state capitols around the country, making positive legislative action difficult. Fortunately, the SEMA Action Network (SAN) has been breaking through the gridlock and promoting legislative solutions for the automotive hobby since 1997.
The SAN is a partnership between enthusiasts, vehicle clubs, and members of the specialty automotive parts industry in the United States and Canada who have joined forces to promote hobby-friendly legislation and oppose unfair laws. With nearly 40,000 members, 3 million contacts, and an ability to reach 30 million enthusiasts through print and press, the SAN is the premier organization defending the rights of the vehicle hobby. The SAN is free to join with no obligations or commitments.