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Voluntary Sound Management for Snowmobiling

Position and Comments

Snowmobiling along a beautiful vista The American Council of Snowmobile Associations (ACSA) and the International Snowmobile Racing Specialty Manufacturers Distributors Groups (ISR SMDG) have established a position of strong opposition to excessive snowmobile sound levels that result in restriction of use of snowmobiles. The organizations believe that few other factors contribute more to misunderstanding and prejudice against the snowmobiling community than excessively noisy snowmobiles. A minority riding loud snowmobiles may leave the impression that all snowmobiles are loud. In fact, a significant percentage of the public does not realize that snowmobiles are built to federally mandated noise control standards.

Each segment of the snowmobiling community -- including the riders, event organizers, retailers and distributors, original equipment and aftermarket manufacturers, law enforcement and the safety community -- must realize that it cannot singlehandedly solve this problem. However, each has a role and responsibility in achieving a solution.

Shifting blame and failing to adopt responsible policies on a voluntary basis can only result in greater prejudice and discrimination against snowmobiling. The consequences of continuing to ignore this issue will likely result in excessively rigorous state and federal standards, more expensive and less attractive snowmobiles, the reduction of choices in aftermarket products, abusive enforcement of current laws and other solutions undesirable to riders and the snowmobile industry.

Based on its opposition to excessive snowmobile noise, the ACSA and ISR SMDG recommend the following:

  • All snowmobilers should be sensitive to community standards and respect the rights of fellow citizens.
  • Snowmobilers should not modify exhaust systems in a way that will increase sound to an offensive level.
  • Organizers of snowmobile events should take steps through advertising, peer pressure and enforcement to make excessively loud snowmobiles unwelcome.
  • Snowmobile retailers should discourage the installation and use of excessively loud replacement exhaust systems.
  • The snowmobile industry, including aftermarket suppliers of replacement exhaust systems, should adopt responsible product design and marketing policies aimed at limiting the cumulative impact of excessive snowmobile sound levels.
  • Manufacturers producing snowmobiles to appropriate federal standards should continue to educate their dealers and customers that louder exhaust systems do not improve the performance of a snowmobile.
  • Law enforcement agencies should fairly and consistently enforce appropriate laws and ordinances against excessive vehicle sound levels.
  • The snowmobile industry and the safety community should educate customers that excessive sound levels may be fatiguing to riders, making them less able to enjoy riding and less able to exercise good riding skills.

Questions & Answers

Q: What is "excessive noise"?

A: No one likes excessive or unreasonably loud vehicles. Confusion arises because everyone has a different definition of "excessive." Levels considered excessive in one environment may be acceptable in another. It's up to you to determine what is excessive. This determination should not always be based on the rider, but rather the conditions around the rider. Some factors to consider include surroundings, time of day, traffic mix, people present, etc.

Q: Why issue this statement?

A: The ACSA and ISR are responding to the loss of trails across the United States due to excessive noise. In Europe, where road closures to stifle excessive noise are becoming almost commonplace, anti-tampering legislation and restrictive sound emission requirements are under serious consideration. The position attempts to avoid further restrictions on snowmobiling. If the excessive sound level problem in not addressed voluntarily, and in a timely fashion, these restrictions are inevitable. Failing to raise this warning, despite the potential negative reception by some, would be shirking the responsibility to the snowmobiling community.

Q: If my exhaust is modified or capable of producing "excessive noise," will I be denied access to snowmobile events?

A: There are no plans to do so. However, all snowmobilers need to become more sensitive to how they affect others. Event organizers are encouraged to use advertising, peer pressure and enforcement of event rules to discourage excessively loud snowmobiles.

Q: Why should appropriate laws and ordinances against excessive vehicle sound levels be fairly and consistently enforced?

A: If existing laws and ordinances governing excessive sound levels from vehicles of all types were fairly and consistently enforced, the problem of noisy vehicles would be effectively eliminated.

Q: What good is it to regulate myself if others continue to make excessive noise?

A: Excessive noise is not the fault on any one brand, any particular style of snowmobile, or any single segment of the snowmobile industry. It is a community-wide problem and we all need to be part of the solution.

Q: Am I being told to replace my aftermarket exhaust with an original-equipment exhaust?

A: No. However, modified exhaust systems should not increase sound to an offensive level.

Q:What responsibilities come with my right to snowmobile?

A: With many rights come responsibilities. We enjoy the right to free speech in America, but that right does not entitle us to yell "Fire" in a crowded theater. So too, the right to ride a snowmobile does not permit us to infringe on the peaceful enjoyment of life by others. Indeed, many others, including the courts, view snowmobiling not as a right but a privilege. This is an important distinction because under our legal system, the government can regulate or eliminate a privilege much easier than it can restrict or cancel a right.

When we examine lessons from history, it is predictable that when a minority abuses a right or privilege, the majority will react. The reaction usually takes the form of some repressive measure. Often the phrase, "I don't like snowmobiles" is immediately followed with "they are too loud." Reactions of this nature regularly result in snowmobile trail closures and proposals to limit the modifications we can make to our snowmobiles. We must all make the correct product choice and develop a new awareness of how responsible riding behavior can positively impact our sport.

Snowmobile areas and trails are now being closed throughout the United States because of noise. Noise is increasingly becoming an issue in federal parks such as Yellowstone and on both public and private lands.

Much of this predicament is not an equipment or engineering problem, but rather a behavioral problem. Some snowmobilers are unaware that with increased numbers we have increased the impact on others. Responsible product choice means the quietest product is always the best choice to help ensure continued access and riding enjoyment. Irresponsibly making excessive noise with snowmobile exhaust systems is tantamount to yelling "Fire," yet some do it daily.

Rather than abuse our right to ride, shouldn't we view that right as a resource to be conserved, nurtured and developed? We must realize that exhuast sound levels have become a political problem. We should engage in voluntary sound management through reasonable self-regulation in order to avoid the imposition of repressive regulations.

With responsible voluntary sound management, we can "soundly manage" our precious resource of snowmobiling. Without it, we invite further government regulation or worse. The choice is ours.

Q: What is MY part to protect snowmobiling?

A:
  • Get involved.
  • Join ACSA—Membership in the American Council of Snowmobile Associations will keep you in the information loop and build a team to keep snowmobiling strong.
  • Join your state snowmobile association—The leading defender of your right to snowmobile in your state is stronger and more effective when you are a part of it.
  • Make responsible choices—Our privilege to ride is a resource to be conserved.

About ACSA

ACSA is a national organization uniting the snowmobile community and promoting snowmobiling as a safe, fun and environmentally friendly family sport.

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American Council of Snowmobile Associations
271 Woodland Pass, STE 216
info@snowmobilers.org
East Lansing, MI 48823
Phone: (517) 351-4362
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