Smog Check City
Random checkpoints in Ventura County look for CO2, not BAC
By Chris O'Neal 09/04/2014
Residents on the east end of Ventura were asked to stop by the California Highway Patrol last week for a voluntary smog check, requested by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Bureau of Automotive Repair.
Over a three-day period, seven checkpoints were set up throughout Ventura County, including one in Ventura on Loma Vista road.
Unlike those used to catch drivers under the influence, the checkpoints were set up as a means by which the state of California could gather information regarding vehicle emissions. The CHP determined which cars to check via a system identifying for certain model-year vehicles. Technicians inserted a probe into the tail pipes of chosen vehicles to determine the levels of emissions and potential problems.
Regardless of the outcome, no fines or violations resulted; rather, technicians on hand informed the drivers of the issues, if any, and sent them on their way. The officers were not checking for license, registration or otherwise, either.
“It’s all strictly volunteer,” said CHP Officer Victor Varela. “It’s more like a survey the State of California is doing. If a car’s running a little dirty, we let them know.”
The State of California requires vehicles to pass a smog check before being registered. According to Officer Varela, even hybrid and electric vehicles were stopped.
For vehicles that fail a smog check, the California Assistance Program can give an eligible driver $500 toward repair of the vehicle to bring it up to code or $1,000 to voluntarily relinquish the vehicle, and $1,500 for income-eligible applicants.
Kevin Russel, program representative with the Bureau of Automotive Repair, says that the data is used to improve the emission standards program in the state.
“We have improved the smog in California,” said Russel, who is originally from Virginia and says that he’s been told smog used to be a terrible problem in the state. “People, for the most part, do volunteer [at the checkpoints]. [They] want to improve the smog and the guys out there on the road explain the whole thing to them.”
Russel says that the checkpoints are more like a service one would receive at a shop, but doesn’t include whether or not the vehicle would pass or fail a check. Rather, Russel says, the technicians would discuss issues, if any, the vehicle may have.
“If you go to a shop, they charge you,” said Russel, referring to the checkpoints having no charge. “It’s up to [the vehicle owners] if they want to go get it fixed. We give them information; we’re here to help.”
Varela says that the CHP receives information on the checkpoints at random and says there are no plans for new checkpoints in the near future.
For more information on CAP and the emissions program, visit www.smogcheck.ca.gov.