Road noise accounts for only a small proportion of the noise complaints to local councils (in absolute terms, about 37 complaints per year per million people).

But it is one of the most widespread sources of noise nuisance and unfortunately, the most difficult to control. Surveys show that 23 per cent of the population are bothered by noise from road traffic.

Our legal powers

Traffic noise is excluded from Part III of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which means that we have no direct responsibility in relation to noise from traffic.

We have a number of legal powers to deal with noise problems. However, we are unable to act at the planning stages of schemes involving traffic.

Under specific circumstances where new traffic schemes have caused an increase in noise levels from traffic, Devon County Council can offer noise insulation grants in respect of residential property.

Devon County Council also have a major role to play in highway planning and administration as do the Highways England who are a part of the Department for Transport and who can be contacted locally at the Exeter Office.

Noisy vehicles

The noise made by vehicles is limited by The Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use Regulations) 1986. Vehicles must be fitted with an efficient exhaust silencer and road users not to make excessive noise or run the engine unnecessarily when stationary.

Noise from motor horns is regulated by the Road Traffic Act 1972. Horns should not be sounded in a restricted road between 11.30pm and 7am and not by a stationary vehicle (unless there is a danger to another moving vehicle).

Private vehicles must not be fitted with a gong, bell, siren or two tone horn. Offenders can be reported to the Devon and Cornwall Police on 101.

If you are being irritated by a noisy vehicle in the street, you can complain to the police on 101. The complaint must relate to individual vehicles, not the overall noise level from a road.

If you live on a busy road you may suffer from traffic noise, even though no regulations are being contravened. This may be due to poor planning or the sheer volume of traffic. There is no easy solution to this problem. Suggestions about traffic control should be sent to the Highways England or Devon County Council.

For more information on noise from road, rail or air, visit the Department for Transport website.