Noise limits for cars would be tightened to protect public health, under a draft law agreed with EU ministers and endorsed by the Envioronment Committee on Wednesday. As proposed by MEPs during negotiations, the text calls for the introduction of labels to inform consumers about the noise levels of new cars and the addition of sound to hybrid and electric vehicles to alert pedestrians.


Persistent exposure to high levels of traffic noise can prove physically draining, disrupt organ functions and contribute to cardiovascular and other diseases, according to research by the European Environment Agency, which also shows that traffic exposes half the EU's urban population to noise levels above 55 decibels (db).

"I consider the final text adopted under the trialogue negotiations as an optimal compromise that will contribute to the protection of health in our European citizens. On the other hand, it should not cause any loss of competitiveness for the European automotive industry. I believe the proposal finds broad support across the political groups in the European Parliament," said the rapporteur, Miroslav Ouzký (ECR, CZ), after the Environment and Health Committee endorsed the agreement he negotiated with EU ministers by 45 votes to 11, with 1 abstention.


Stricter sound limits


The draft rules would phase in new limits two, four and ten years after the new rules come into force. The first phase would apply to new vehicle types. The second and the third phases would also apply to all new vehicles produced.

The limit for standard cars would be reduced to 68 db in 12 years, from the current level of 74 db. More powerful vehicles would be allowed a margin of 1 to 9 extra decibels. The text lowers the limit for the most powerful heavy lorries (over 12 tonnes) to 79 db from 81 db. MEPs recognise that vehicle noise is also affected by the road surface and tyre noise.

Noise labels

MEPs also want new cars to be labelled to provide consumers with information on their noise levels. Similar labelling schemes already exist for fuel efficiency, tyre noise and CO2 emissions.

Silent danger

MEPs are concerned that quiet electric and hybrid car engines can pose a threat to pedestrians and cyclists, and propose to harmonize the acoustic systems being developed to add sound to these vehicles.

Next steps

The Council of Ministers is expected to adopt its common position based on the negotiated text in early December.