by Kris Thoma

Pensacola News Journal

October 3, 2005

Florida lawmakers this year tightened their grip on noise pollution by enacting tougher restrictions on car stereo noise in an attempt to keep neighborhoods more peaceful and roads safer.

Three months after the tougher law took effect, giant speakers and accessories continue to sell, and car enthusiasts still like to crank up the sound.

But more people are being ticketed. Before July 1, drivers whose music could be heard more than 100 feet away were subject to public-nuisance fines. Now, it’s 25 feet, making it easier for law enforcement officers to ticket violators.

Erin Bass doesn’t think it’s fair. She worked hard to invest thousands into her five vehicles to multiply the sound.

“I haven’t gotten a ticket, but I could,” said Bass, 18, of Milton. “Every time I see a cop, I turn it down.”

Escambia County Clerk of Courts records indicate law enforcement agencies issued nearly twice as many citations in July and August than in May and June.

In Santa Rosa County, records indicate the number of citations has remained pretty constant — only a handful per month.

Ted Rueter, director of an advocacy group called Noise Free America, applauded the Florida Legislature for enacting a tougher noise law.

But, he said, the price tag for a violation isn’t expensive enough. The citation costs offenders $71.50 locally.

“That’s about the same as for jaywalking or spitting on the sidewalk,” he said. “The systems that produce this noise cost tens of thousands of dollars. I can’t imagine any boom-car user is going to be affected by such a minimal fine.”

Master Deputy Mike DeLay of the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office traffic division said officers are most concerned about the repeat offenders who make excessive noise in neighborhoods where residents frequently complain.

“If it is so loud that it’s disturbing others and causing you not to be able to hear emergency vehicles, it’s too loud,” he said. “That’s why the law is in place.”

The tougher laws aren’t affecting sales at places like Performance Mobile Installs and Ken’s Car Tunes, managers said.

Brian Majors, a salesman at Performance, said people are willing to take the risk. Also, more than 150 people have signed a customer-led petition against the law, he said.

The petition indicates that those who sign it believe the law to be a violation of personal rights that exceed the limits necessary to protect average people from excessive noise. Petition-signers also argue that the law is too strict because it puts everyone at risk — including average drivers who like to turn up their basic car stereo and roll the windows down.

Assistant Chief Chip Simmons, spokesman for the Pensacola Police Department, said that’s not the case because officers use discretion to determine who is violating the law intentionally.

Bass said she and many others do not — at least not in areas where it might disturb others.

“We can be respectful and not go through neighborhoods blaring our music,” she said. “So, we should still be able to go down major highways and have it as loud as we want it. We paid for it, and it’s a free country.”