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Utah lawmakers may crack down on noisy tailpipes and bring back 'PhotoCop'

Posted at 4:24 PM, Jan 06, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — A pair of bills introduced on Utah's Capitol Hill could force people to watch how they drive.

Rep. Gay Lynn Bennion, D-Cottonwood Heights, has filed House Bill 95 in the upcoming legislative session. It would crack down on noisy tailpipes in northern Utah. Like many other lawmakers, Rep. Bennion said she had received a lot of emails and calls from constituents complaining about loud cars.

"In so many communities people are tired of the noise and it’s illegal what these people are doing and they should be responsible and get their mufflers back into compliance with our law," she told FOX 13 News on Friday.

The bill is one that has been run repeatedly in the legislature. Last year, it came within two votes of passing the House with many lawmakers speaking in frustrated tones about the late night revving of engines and noise that disrupts neighborhoods.

Rep. Bennion said her bill would not require police to chase down vehicles with a decibel meter. Instead, when a vehicle goes in for an emissions inspection in Cache, Weber, Davis, Salt Lake or Utah counties, it would be checked to see if the muffler has been modified. If it has, the owner can't register the vehicle until it's fixed.

"This would be normal vehicles and their modifications they’ve made to increase noise," Rep. Bennion said. "We understand some vehicles are just noisy. We have construction that’s just noisy. We can’t control that, but we can control people adding modifications that make their vehicle illegally loud."

It's not difficult to find those vehicles. FOX 13 News observed a number of them driving around the Salt Lake Valley on Friday. Some residents were also supportive of the crackdown.

"You let that go and the next thing you know you’ve got a tank driving by your house," said Kio Togiei, who lives in West Valley City.

Ray Lopez said people need to respect those around them.

"You can't just be flooring it," he said.

Another bill seeks to resurrect "PhotoCop." It was banned by the Utah State Legislature in 1996. Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, told FOX 13 News he plans to introduce a bill to bring it back.

"I think they’ve got their place. It’s not broad range traffic coverage. It maybe deals with some of the traffic gauntlets... I think it’s great traffic control in school zones," he said.

The cameras snap pictures of people who run a red light and mail a ticket to them. Critics have blasted "PhotoCop" for a number of reasons: You have a Sixth Amendment right to confront your accuser which, in this case, would be a machine. They have also questioned whether the cameras could identify who was operating an offending vehicle and if doing so would introduce facial recognition or surveillance.

Sen. Stevenson insisted that what they would pass would be legal.

"Times are different, everything changes. Our freedoms don't and I respect that," he said. "But I think there are places where we have a great need for PhotoCop."