Rules of the Road: Are there laws about loud music or mufflers?


Question: Is it illegal to have your bass turned up loud enough to rattle windows? Are loud mufflers OK? It's noisy living around the community college campus.

Answer: Yes,it is illegal to play your music that loud, at least in Bellingham.

That falls under Bellingham Municipal Code 11.15.400, Automotive sound systems and horns - Excessive noise prohibition: It is unlawful for any person to operate or maintain a motor vehicle audio sound system, such as tape players, radios, and compact disc players, at a volume so as to be audible greater than 50 feet from the vehicle itself.

As for loud mufflers, those also are a no-no, per state law.

Mufflers must meet RCW 46.37.390, Mufflers required: (1) Every motor vehicle shall at all times be equipped with a muffler in good working order and in constant operation to prevent excessive or unusual noise, and no person shall use a muffler cut-out, bypass, or similar device upon a motor vehicle on a highway. (3) No person shall modify the exhaust system of a motor vehicle in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the engine of such vehicle above that emitted by the muffler originally installed on the vehicle, and it shall be unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle not equipped as required by this subsection, or which has been amplified as prohibited by this subsection.

Q: On Guide Meridian in the Laurel area there are a lot of utility covers in the outside lane. They make for a bumpy ride. They are not in a straight line, so they're hard to avoid. Is it OK to move to the left lane in this area?

A: Yes, there are a lot of utility access covers. Technically, on a multi-lane road like the Guide, you should drive in the right lane unless you are passing a slower moving vehicle or are preparing to make a left turn.


Rules of the Road is a regular column with questions and answers on road laws, safe driving habits and general police practices.

Answers come from David Wright, a retired officer from the Bellingham Police Department who is now serving on the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force.

For previous Rules of the Road columns or to ask a question, go to

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