Loud motorcycle exhausts not exempt

I have been asked more times than I can count about why motorcycles are allowed to have such loud exhaust systems. For those of us who are not motorcycle enthusiasts, it can be very hard to appreciate the roar of a Harley-Davidson, or any other brand of motorcycle, rumbling down the road. It can be very hard for someone to appreciate any sounds a motorcycle makes if all they focus on is how loud and obnoxious the motorcycle is if the exhaust system has been altered.

A concerned citizen specifically asked, “How is it that Harleys, as well as some crotch rockets, can be so loud and never get stopped by police officers? Vehicles that have faulty exhaust systems or systems that are too loud are stopped by officers frequently, but I never see the loud motorcycles stopped.”

Many people have commented to me about how they believe the louder the motorcycle is the more likely other drivers will hear the motorcycle, also known as “Loud Pipes Save Lives.” By making the exhaust system louder on the motorcycle, these people believe it is less likely the motorcyclist will have an accident with a motor vehicle. All in all, I cannot find any statistics to back up this thought process. In most accidents involving a motor vehicle and a motorcycle, there was a driver that was distracted or just didn’t see the other driver due to positioning. Having louder exhaust would not prohibit a distracted driver from causing the accident.

In Michigan, MCL 257.707 discusses the requirements for the muffler and exhaust system on motor vehicles, which includes motorcycles and mopeds. Under Michigan law, there is no specific exemption for motorcycles in regards to altering the exhaust system. MCL 257.707(1) states, “A motor vehicle, including a motorcycle or moped, shall at all times be equipped with a muffler in good working order and in constant operation to prevent excessive or unusual noise and annoying smoke. A person shall not remove, destroy, or damage any of the baffles contained in the muffler, nor shall a person use a muffler cutout, bypass, or similar device upon a motorcycle or moped on a highway or street.”

For us as troopers, the hard part is, what is excessive or an unusual noise as it relates to an exhaust system? We do not have any type of devices to read decibel levels or to determine a level that is excessive. However, as it states in the statute, the vehicle must have a good working muffler, which an officer can observe if a muffler has damage or if it is not properly functioning.

Section 3 of MCL 257.707 states, “A motor vehicle shall at all times be equipped with a properly operating exhaust system which shall include a tailpipe and resonator on a vehicle where the original design included a tailpipe and resonator.”

When an officer stops a motorcycle for the excessive noise from the exhaust system, the most common violation found is the owner had replaced all of the factory-installed exhaust system parts with aftermarket systems that are designed to make the cycle louder. Again, due to officers not having equipment readily available to them to determine how loud the exhaust system is on a motorcycle, as long as all parts appear to be intact, there is not much the officer is able to do.

Overall, a motorcyclist could be cited for a noisy muffler if the system has been altered from the original manufacturer system; however, without the proper equipment, this most likely will not be the case.

Ashley Simpson is a Community Service Trooper for the MSP Alpena Post. If you have a question for Trooper Simpson, you can email her at asktroopersimpson@gmail.com or mail them to Ask A Trooper, Michigan State Police – Alpena Post, 3283 W. Washington Ave, Alpena, MI 49707.