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Toll-Free Line Spies on Smoking Cars

February 05, 1989|ANDREW LePAGE | Times Staff Writer

The San Diego Air Pollution Control District has announced a joint program with the California Highway Patrol to reduce the number of "smoking vehicles" on the highways.

The program includes a toll-free number for reporting vehicles emitting smoke to the Air Pollution Control District. Officials say these vehicles contribute substantially to pollution in the county.

Reporting Smoke

Anyone seeing a smoking vehicle will be able to call the Air Pollution Control District, report the vehicle's description and license number, and where and when the violation was seen. The APCD will send the owner of the vehicle a letter, stating that the violation was reported and repairs should be made. The letter will also ask the owner to provide proof of repair.

The APCD does not intend to pursue the matter beyond letter-writing. However, officials say similar programs--such as one in the Los Angeles/Orange County area--have shown about an 85% compliance rate.

Meanwhile, CHP commanders will train, or retrain, officers to recognize and deal with smoking-vehicle violations, said Chief Sal DePaola,head of the CHP's Border Division.

"I want our officers to realize we have to control the smoke," DePaola said. "Traffic is increasing at such an enormous rate that we've got to step up our enforcement. When we get up to 2 million vehicles on the road, the (emissions) problem is really going to be magnified."

Emissions from the nearly 1.7 million registered automobiles in the county represent about 46% of the county's smog, according to air-pollution control officer Rich Sommerville.

Sommerville, who heads the Smoking Vehicle Prevention Program, said the increased enforcement and the toll-free, 24-hour phone number will help the county meet regional goals in controlling traffic and pollution. The number, which became operational this week, is 800-331-3383.

"We (in San Diego County) are tired of drunk drivers and traffic congestion, and we're tired of smoking vehicles," Sommerville said.

He said smoke from malfunctioning engines releases nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons, which can combine in sunlight to form "photochemical smog," along with carbon monoxide.

Now, when CHP officers pull over a smoking vehicle, they either issue a citation (requiring repairs and usually carrying a fine of about $45) or a fix-it ticket requiring only proof of repairs, according to DePaola. A citation is issued when the officer believes the vehicle has been smoking for a prolonged period, he said.

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