Vehicle emissions targeted

Times Staff Writer

Big Brother is watching your car.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District is targeting vehicles in Orange County this week, using remote smog sensors to nab gross polluters -- about 10% of all vehicles on Southland roadways.

AQMD officials said that because those vehicles create 50% of the smog, the state would help the owners with repair costs or pay them to scrap the vehicles.

The sensors measure emissions by projecting beams of infrared and ultraviolet light across a roadway, such as a freeway onramp. As a vehicle passes by, its tailpipe emissions absorb some of the light, and a computer calculates the pollution level. At the same time, a camera captures the license plate.

This is the first time Orange County roads have been checked by the AQMD. The district began monitoring in Los Angeles and Riverside counties over the summer.

Gross-polluting vehicles emit 100 times more pollution than average vehicles, typically because of maintenance problems or someone having tampered with the exhaust or emission systems. They aren’t necessarily old cars.


The AQMD will send letters to the owners of the polluting vehicles, offering them $500 to help with repairs, or $1,000 to scrap the vehicle. Low-income motorists willing to replace their cars with a low-emission model can get $2,000.

More than 3,000 letters had been sent by Oct. 30, with more than 300 motorists responding.

“We are hoping that people will respond and take advantage of the program,” said AQMD spokeswoman Tina Cherry. “We haven’t seen a response as high as we would like, but we hope it will pick up.”

Remote-sensing devices date to the 1980s. They can measure a vehicle’s tailpipe emissions of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide in less than one second.