Ontario has come a long way from horse drawn vehicles (although the Highway Traffic Act still contains laws regarding them). Cars have powerful engines that can accelerate the vehicle quickly causing the tires to squeal or smoke. Vehicles create exhaust that has to be regulated and they can also make necessary or unwelcome noise. While much of this may seem to be common sense and basic common courtesy in regards to other drivers and pedestrians, it’s also the law.
Many people in Ontario are charged every single day of the year for breaking the law. Some people have broken the law intentionally like speeding when they are late for work. Others break the law unintentionally due to not understanding the law and how it applies to them. Either way, once you’re charged by the police, you have a legal problem that needs to be dealt with. Legal problems generally only get worse if you ignore them.
The best way to keep on the right side of the law is to know the law and obey it. But despite our best efforts, even that is sometimes not enough to avoid a charge from the police. A conviction can result in a court fine, demerit points, CVOR points (for commercial motor vehicle drivers or their employers), licence suspension or cancellation, and in very serious cases even imprisonment. There can be a lot on the line including an impact to your personal, family, or work obligations. Hiring a licenced and experienced paralegal is generally your most cost-effective way forward in dealing with these issues.
If you have a question that hasn’t been answered, feel free to submit a blog question and we’ll either include it in a future article or send you a direct response with an answer. We enjoy hearing questions from our readers and other people may have the same question that you have. If you have already received a ticket or summons from the police, it would be better to submit an online consultation request. As you will already have a pending court date or a filing deadline with the court, you will need much more timely information and answers to your questions. A few minutes on the phone can help ensure that you’re making informed decisions and avoiding legal or licencing problems. This week we’re going to take a look at some of the Highway Traffic Act’s requirements in regards to your vehicle’s noise and exhaust.
Let’s take a look!
What Are My Legal Muffler Requirements In Ontario?
Most people have been relaxing at home watching television or lying in bed, only to be abruptly disturbed by the sound of a loud car driving by with an exhaust system designed to make noise. It can certainly be annoying. But is it against the law? Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act section 75(1) deals with this very issue:
Noise, smoke, bells and horns
75 (1) Every motor vehicle or motor assisted bicycle shall be equipped with a muffler in good working order and in constant operation to prevent excessive or unusual noise and excessive smoke, and no person shall use a muffler cut-out, straight exhaust, gutted muffler, hollywood muffler, by-pass or similar device upon a motor vehicle or motor assisted bicycle. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 75 (1).
“motor assisted bicycle” means a bicycle,
(a) that is fitted with pedals that are operable at all times to propel the bicycle,
(b) that weighs not more than fifty-five kilograms,
(c) that has no hand or foot operated clutch or gearbox driven by the motor and transferring power to the driven wheel,
(d) that has an attached motor driven by electricity or having a piston displacement of not more than fifty cubic centimetres, and
(e) that does not have sufficient power to enable the bicycle to attain a speed greater than 50 kilometres per hour on level ground within a distance of 2 kilometres from a standing start; (“cyclomoteur”)
“motor vehicle” includes an automobile, a motorcycle, a motor assisted bicycle unless otherwise indicated in this Act, and any other vehicle propelled or driven otherwise than by muscular power, but does not include a street car or other motor vehicle running only upon rails, a power-assisted bicycle, a motorized snow vehicle, a traction engine, a farm tractor, a self-propelled implement of husbandry or a road-building machine; (“véhicule automobile”)
The requirements of this section apply to:
- Motor vehicles
- Motor assisted bicycles
Such vehicles must be equipped with a muffler in good working order that prevents:
- Excessive or unusual noise
- Excessive smoke
These vehicles are also prohibited from having the following:
- Muffler cut-out
- Straight exhaust
- Gutted muffler
- Hollywood muffler
- By-pass or similar device
If your motor vehicle or motor-assisted bicycle is not in line with these legal requirements, you risk being stopped and charged by the police.
Are There Any Exemptions To Muffler Noise Laws In Ontario?
Yes. There are two exemptions that are provided to muffler noise or smoke laws under Highway Traffic Act section 75(2):
(2) Subsection (1) does not apply to,
(a) a motor assisted bicycle with an attached motor that is driven entirely by electricity; or
(b) a motor vehicle that is driven entirely by electricity. 2009, c. 5, s. 31.
The first exemption is for motor assisted bicycles. If your motor assisted bicycle is powered entirely by electricity, then you do not need to worry about the laws under HTA section 75(1). The other exemption is for motor vehicles that are driven entirely by electricity. These electric vehicles are also exempt from Highway Traffic Act section 75(1).
Can I Be Charged For Excessive Fumes Or Smoke From My Vehicle?
Yes, you can. Not only can a bad exhaust system harm the environment and cause problems for other drivers or pedestrians near your vehicle, but it can also run you into trouble with the police. Highway Traffic Act section 75(3) specifically deals with the issue of vehicles that produce excessive fumes or smoke:
Fumes from engine
(3) The engine and power mechanism of every motor vehicle shall be so equipped and adjusted as to prevent the escape of excessive fumes or smoke. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 75 (3)
Can I Be Charged For Making Unnecessary Noise With My Vehicle?
Yes. The definition of what exactly constitutes an ‘unnecessary noise’ is fairly broad and generic. They could apply anywhere from squealing your tires to honking your horn unnecessarily. This issue is specifically addressed under Highway Traffic Action section 75(4) as follows:
(4) A person having the control or charge of a motor vehicle shall not sound any bell, horn or other signalling device so as to make an unreasonable noise, and a driver of any motor vehicle shall not permit any unreasonable amount of smoke to escape from the motor vehicle, nor shall the driver at any time cause the motor vehicle to make any unnecessary noise, but this subsection does not apply to a motor vehicle of a municipal fire department while proceeding to a fire or answering a fire alarm call. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 75 (4).
This law could apply to you if you are:
- In control of the vehicle
- In charge of the vehicle
Such individuals are prohibited from making an ‘unreasonable noise’ by:
- Sounding a bell
- Using a horn
- Any other signalling device that makes sound
The driver of a motor vehicle is also prohibited from allowing the vehicle to:
- Produce an unreasonable amount of smoke
- Produce any unnecessary noise
These definitions aren’t very specific and could certainly be subjective. What you and a police officer consider to be unreasonable or unnecessary noise or smoke could be very different. The difference is that of the two parties, one can issue tickets and one may end up being ticketed. Erring on the side of caution never hurts when it comes to the law.
There is an exemption in this law that it does not apply to municipal fire trucks that are on their way to a fire or answering a fire alarm call. This would seem like a reasonable exemption in serving the greater public good.
Do Bicycles Or Cars Require A Horn In Ontario?
Yes, they do. This requirement is made under Highway Traffic Act 75(5):
Alarm bell to be sounded
(5) Every motor vehicle, motor assisted bicycle and bicycle shall be equipped with an alarm bell, gong or horn, which shall be kept in good working order and sounded whenever it is reasonably necessary to notify pedestrians or others of its approach. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 75 (5).
This law applies to:
- Motor vehicles
- Motor assisted bicycles
“bicycle” includes a tricycle, a unicycle and a power-assisted bicycle but does not include a motor assisted bicycle; (“bicyclette”)
Such vehicles must be equipped with any of the following devices:
- Alarm bell
Such devices are required to be used whenever it is “reasonably necessary” to notify pedestrians or others of your approach.
Can I Use A Siren On My Vehicle?
No. Doing so is prohibited under Highway Traffic Act section 75(6):
Prohibition as to use of siren horn
(6) No vehicle other than an ambulance, fire or police department vehicle, public utility emergency vehicle or vehicle operated by the Ministry shall be equipped with a siren horn or a device producing a sound which so nearly resembles that produced by a siren horn as to deceive or confuse. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 75 (6).
The only vehicles that are allowed to use a siren horn or any device that would make a reasonably similar sound are:
- Fire trucks
- Police department vehicles
- Public utility emergency vehicles
- Vehicle operated by the Ministry
Unless your vehicle is included in one of these exempted categories, you can’t use a siren with your vehicle. This law even specifically prohibits your vehicle from being “equipped” with such a device.
What Can I Do If I’m Charged By The Police?
The first thing most people do after having been charged by the police is to seek out the information that they will need in order to make informed decisions. A hasty decision or a legal misstep could result in a poorer outcome at court or an else wise avoidable conviction.
Hiring a licensed paralegal can make sure that you are making informed decisions and are working towards a favorable outcome at court. Paralegals are licensed and regulated under the Law Society of Ontario. They are your legal representative and advocate at court.
The first step is to speak with one of our staff so that we can understand what has happened and to answer any basic questions that you may have.
We offer a no-cost, no-obligation initial consultation to go over that information with you. Let us take the stress and worry out of the court process for you. We can be reached via our toll-free number 1-844-647-6869, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by text at 226-240-2480.
You can also submit an online consultation request any time of day or night, and one of our staff will contact you during regular business hours to assist you.