Loud Pipes Saves Lives: But How Loud Is Too Loud?

By: Attorney Christine A. Gimber – Weld Riley, S.C.

A popular saying amongst motorcyclists is, “Loud pipes save lives.”  If others vehicles can hear you coming, they will be less likely to turn in front of you or pull into your lane.  For this reason1, many bikers modify the exhaust on their motorcycles to make the cycle more noticeable to other motorists. 

But how loud is too loud?  Under Wisconsin law, all vehicles must have a muffler that prevents “any excessive or unusual noise.”  Further, no exhaust may be modified in any way “which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the motor of such vehicle above that emitted by the muffler originally installed on the vehicle….” 

Law enforcement determines if the after-market muffler on a cycle is louder than the muffler installed in the factory.  But isn’t this too subjective?  Doesn’t this give law enforcement too much discretion in who to ticket and who not to ticket?  According to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, the answer is no.  The Court of Appeals has held that determining what is “excessive noise” is a reasonable standard that law enforcement can rely upon in determining who to pull over and ticket for an excessively loud muffler. 

Wisconsin is one of twenty-one states that prohibits mufflers from making loud or excessive noise.  Sixteen states (including the Territory of Puerto Rico) have no regulations at all.  And fifteen states and territories (including the District of Columbia) regulate the sound a muffler emits based upon decibels. 

In Wisconsin, cyclists may want to consider whether to install pipes that are “louder” than the factory pipes.  While loud pipes may save your life, they may also get you a ticket. 

One of the largest law firms in the region with attorneys in Eau Claire, Menomonie, Black River Falls, and Wausau, Weld Riley is ideally suited to provide the legal assistance you need. Contact us for a consultation today!

1 Or to improve engine performance.