What can cities do to reduce traffic noise

Why should cities fight to reduce traffic noise? In Europe alone, more than 100 million people are exposed to harmful levels of environmental noise pollution. Long-term exposure contributes to 48.000 new case of heart disease and 12.000 premature deaths every year. But even more shocking: one million healthy years of life are lost every year due to the effects of noise on health1. So why isn’t noise pollution getting more attention from the media or local government?

Traffic noise reduction

To understand why traffic noise reduction is important, you must first understand what is considered as noise. Sound is measured in decibels (dB). Whispering is about 20 dB, a mosquito 40 dB, a fast train 80 dB and a concert around 100 dB. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines noise above 65 decibels as noise pollution. Sound becomes harmful from 80 decibels and is painful above 120 decibels.

The WHO guidelines for community noise recommend less than 30 A-weighted decibels (dB(A)) in bedrooms during the night for a sleep of good quality and less than 35 dB(A) in classrooms to allow good teaching and learning conditions.


Most countries have their own laws regarding noise pollution and specific plans for road noise reduction. Countries in Europe must also comply with European laws when it comes to noise pollution. In recent years, these laws have become stricter and the focus on traffic noise reduction has grown.

Easy steps to reduce traffic noise

You either love it or you hate it; a roaring v8. Quieter vehicles sounds like an easy step, but actually it’s quite complex. Take legislation in the Netherlands for instance. The maximum dB for a car at inspection is 96 dB. But it all depends on the EU type-approval number. This number tells you what the maximum dB for a specific car is and these limits can vary greatly. New EU legislation requires new cars to produce less noise. In the 80’s the limit was 84 dB, in 2020 it went down to 70 decibels and as of 2024 new cars have a limit of 68 dB. Although it is a decline of 16 dB, it means every single car on the road is still above the 65 dB limit and considered noise pollution.

Loud vehicle detection (LVD)

Other easy steps like quieter tires or road surfaces are all very generic, require legislation or are very expensive. Loud vehicle detection offers cities a much more targeted approach that leads to a more (cost) effective solution. Environmental noise monitoring gives substantiated information that can be used in various ways. Its first use is anomaly detection – what parts of the city show a higher sound level than the average sound level. The obtained data can be used to make physical changes to the area, to reduce traffic noise.

Sound activated enforcement

Data from traffic noise monitoring can also be used for enforcement. Sound activated enforcement is becoming more and more popular in big cities, because it has proven to be very effective. Nicknamed the ‘muffler camera’, a sound camera visualizes which vehicle is causing the noise pollution and attaches a consequence. While the sound sensor detects the noise, the smart camera is only activated if the sound level for that specific EU-type-approval number is exceeded. This helps reduce traffic noise from for instance cars with customized exhausts or noisy tyres and will also discourage revving cars in residential neighborhoods.

Reduce exposure to traffic noise

While cities are starting to see the need to do something to reduce traffic noise, there are also things people living in cities can do to minimize the exposure to traffic noise, or any environmental noise. A sound camera like the Sorama CAM iV64 can be used to detect air leaks in doors, windows and facades. By scanning the room with the sound camera, the 7-inch display will show you exactly where the noise is coming from. When you know a corner or window frame in your house is leaking air and letting environmental sounds come into your home, the problem can be easily fixed.

Interested in learning more on how to reduce traffic noise with the Sorama CAM iV64? Contact us for a personalized demo.