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Can I Yell at Other Drivers With My Own PA System?

Who hasn't dreamt about using a public address system in their car? Whether it's to politely chastise the guy who cut you off, kindly inform that little old lady that you'll wait while she crosses the street, or dutifully remind another driver that it's incredibly moronic to text or watch videos while driving, a car-based PA system sounds really handy. Sure, sure, it could also be really annoying, depending on who's controlling it. But most of us would use it judiciously, right? 

But before you strap one on your car and begin educating your fellow travelers at will, check your local traffic laws. Yelling at other drivers with your own PA system might not be legal. 

Why Doesn't Everyone Have One?

There are so many reasons to have a PA system strapped to your car. How many times have you muttered (yelled?), "It's green!" and wished they'd heard you. And honking doesn't always convey the full message you'd like to communicate. "Put your phone down and drive," or, "I love your pantsuit!" Or maybe you just want to advertise your band's upcoming gigs. Whatever your cause, there's probably a reason you don't hear people projecting their messages from the car -- most cities and states have noise laws, and some prohibit the actual devices that amplify sound too much.

Local Noise Laws

You can look up your state's traffic laws to get a better idea of what you're allowed to do, but here are a few examples of laws that would limit your ability to yell at other drivers with your own PA system (exceptions apply to each):

  • California: Illegal to use a sound amplification system which can be heard 50 or more feet away from the car while on the highway;
  • Massachusetts: Illegal to sound a bell, horn, or other device so as to make a harsh, objectionable, or unreasonable noise; and
  • Georgia: Illegal to amplify sound from within the car so that it's plainly audible at a distance of 100 feet or more from the vehicle.

Road Rage and Safety Concerns

In addition to being potentially illegal, using a PA system to chastise other drivers is risky. We already hear too many cases of seemingly minor altercations which turn into deadly road rage incidents. It's probably safer to just mutter a correction under your breath and move on. Or, even better, give people the benefit of the doubt. Assume they're rushing to the hospital, they're child is choking in the backseat, or they're distracted because they just worked a long night shift at your grandmother's nursing home.

If you're still not sure about your state's vehicle or noise laws, or you've been ticketed for violating them, talk to an attorney who can explain the relevant laws and help protect your rights.

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