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COUNTYWIDE : CHP Hired to Cite Smoking Cars

Despite concerns that ticketing smoke-spewing vehicles might cause hardship for the poor, Ventura County supervisors approved a yearlong contract Tuesday with the California Highway Patrol to search for violators.

The supervisors also approved a proposal to establish a countywide toll-free hot line for people who want to report smoking vehicles. Once reported, the vehicle owners will receive letters from the county asking them to have their vehicles repaired.

Under the program, the county’s Air Pollution Control District will pay $94,500 this year for one CHP officer to search highways and freeways in Ventura County for smoking cars, trucks and buses.

But Supervisor John K. Flynn, who cast the lone dissenting vote on the five-member board, said the county’s money would be better spent fixing cars than chasing down violators.

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“We are really zeroing in on the poor people of Ventura County,” Flynn said. He said that those who drive older, smoky cars can be found at the county’s homeless shelters and in its agricultural fields. “They have already been hit (by the recession) and we’re going to hit them again.”

Richard H. Baldwin, who heads the county’s air pollution district, said a similar program in the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which includes Los Angeles County, has been valuable.

“The lion’s share (of citations) have been heavy-duty vehicles, trucks and buses,” he said.

The South Coast program, which includes eight CHP officers and a supervisor, cites about 1,000 people per month and receives 20,000 calls per month on its hot line, said Bruce Collins, who heads the district’s Smoking Vehicles program.

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Collins said 75% of the vehicles cited each month are commercial diesel trucks. An additional 10% are buses, and the rest are small trucks and cars.


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