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It may be difficult to muffle motorcycles
A motorcycle rider heads South on Elm Street in Manchester on Friday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)
"We will have to turn our decibel meter to 92 now," Portsmouth police Sgt. Aaron Goodwin said Saturday.
Why are some motorcycles louder than others? According to NoiseOff, a group that raises awareness of the issue of noise pollution, the answer is simple: The quiet ones are equipped with their original equipment exhaust systems, while the louder ones have had either their original systems modified or replaced with an aftermarket exhaust system.
Several years ago, Milford police and New Hampshire State Police ran checkpoints on loud motorcycles in downtown Milford in response to residents' complaints. Pelletier said he was surprised how much noise it took to hit even 100 decibels.
He compared 100 decibels to the loud, staccato bursts an 18-wheel, tractor-trailer rig equipped with Jacobs Engine Brakes - compression brakes known as "jake brakes" - makes when braking on a steep downhill in a quiet neighborhood.
Some nature websites say spring peeper frogs can make their peeping sound in excess of 100 decibels, most are between 85 and 90 decibels.
"The motorcycle laws in this state are not the easiest to enforce," said Lt. Jim Flanagan of the Manchester Police Department.
In the past, Seacoast police departments formed a specialized team to do motorcyle checkpoints, Goodwin said.
The new law "is good for anybody who doesn't like loud motorcycles," Goodwin said. "There is certainly another side of the argument - that it's a safety feature. The expression 'Loud Pipes Save Lives' - that's the other side of the argument."
"This will help the public by reducing the noise. But if the motorcycle community claims it is also a safety issue, it is still loud enough to hear them coming," he said.
"They can't pull you over just because they think your bike might be too loud," said Alexander.
There are 15 states with no statewide limit on motorcycle exhaust decibels. Among New England states, Maine and Rhode Island require all motorcycles to have working mufflers that prohibit excessive noise. In Vermont, any exhaust system on a motorcycle is deemed defective if any modifications or alterations have been made that cause it to generate a higher sound level than the manufacturer's original equipment.
"We aren't planning any special enforcement activities associated with Bike Week this year," said Flanagan. "We will be involved in some special enforcement activities planned for the 101 East corridor, which could indirectly involve traffic headed north, but that's all."
"It's night and day from what it used to be in terms of arrests here," said Adams. "Last year, we had under 100 arrests over the course of the whole nine-day event. There were years back when I first started here that we would have 200 arrests on a Saturday night. It's a much different crowd, a different atmosphere. I don't think noise levels are going to have an effect on the week at all."
"Over the last several years we've seen a dramatic increase in motorcycle crashes," says Sgt. Steve Wheeler, head of the New Hampshire State Police Tactical Reconstruction Unit.
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