5,000 Sightings Called In of Smog-Spewing Vehicles

Times Staff Writer

San Diego County air-pollution officials announced Wednesday that residents fed up with smoking vehicles on the county’s highways have registered nearly 5,000 complaints over the past three months by calling a toll-free hot line to the Air Pollution Control District.

Anyone seeing a smoking automobile can call the 3-month-old hot line, 800-331-3383 and report the vehicle’s description and license number, and where and when the violation was seen.

Smoking vehicles represent a relatively small percentage of the 1.7 million registered vehicles in the county, but their contribution to regional smog is extremely high, according to Richard Sommerville, an air-pollution control officer.


After a report is made, the APCD sends the owner of the smoking 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 repairs.

So far, Sommerville said, 30% to 40% of those who have received a letter have complied. If the owners do not respond to the letter, they risk a citation if noticed by a California Highway Patrol officer.

Clean Air Week

Wednesday’s announcement came during the county’s 17th annual Clean Air Week, an air-pollution awareness campaign sponsored by the APCD and the San Diego and Imperial counties chapter of the American Lung Assn.

Those agencies want to “encourage people to take action now, so that down the road we won’t have to postpone outdoor activities because of poor air quality,” said Jan Cortez, director of environmental and occupational health programs for the American Lung Assn.

Residents who call the 24-hour number to report excessive emissions are helping the county meet regional goals in controlling automobile pollution, which accounts for about 46% of the region’s smog, according to Sommerville.

“I think people in San Diego like their city and want an opportunity to personally help keep it clean,” Sommerville said.


Also announced Wednesday was a no-charge phone number to report smoking vehicles to the APCD for subscribers of PacTel Cellular, one of the county’s two cellular phone companies. Subscribers simply dial 22. About half of the 40,000 county residents who own cellular phones subscribe to PacTel Cellular, representatives of PacTel and U. S. West Cellular said.

Meanwhile, the American Lung Assn. in San Diego is offering residents an “Act Now for Clean Air” leaflet as part of Clean Air Week. Topping the list of recommendations are keeping your car in good repair, curbing the use of aerosol products, not topping off your gas tank (spillage evaporates and contributes to smog), and recycling newspaper, glass, aluminum and plastics.