Random Smog Checks Help Clear the Air

State has been conducting random smog checks in San Diego County

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    NEWSLETTERS

    For the past week, the California Bureau of Automotive Repairs has been conducting random smog tests in San Diego County.

    The tests are just like the ones performed at an inspection station.

    The inspections are for gathering vehicle emissions data for the state, according to a handout sheet given to drivers. The inspections are completely voluntary and take about 10 minutes. There are no consequences. In fact, the inspectors do not tell drivers if they pass or fail the test.

    A checkpoint was set up Thursday on Mission Road in San Marcos. On Wednesday, a checkpoint was set up on Black Mountain Road in Rancho Penasquitos.

    Janine Johnson of Carlsbad thought she had done something wrong after a California Highway Patrol officer waved her over in San Marcos.

    "I was thinking I was in trouble," Johnson said.

    On-site technicians were not allowed to answer a reporters' questions, so it's not clear what the data gathered in San Diego County will be used for. All questions were referred to the communications office of the California Department of Consumer Affairs.

    A series of e-mailed questions sent to the state has yet to be answered, but an article in the "Los Angeles Times" reported that data gathered from random smog tests conducted between 2000-06 showed nearly one- third of older cars failed roadside tests within a year of passing at test stations.

    As a result, new legislation is being introduced that will target unscrupulous smog station inspectors and change the way current inspections are conducted. Legislation proposed by Assemblyman Mike Eng (D-Monterey Park) would require future testing to be done with a hand-held scanner that takes data from on-board computers. Tailpipe-and-treadmill testing would be phased out.

    In San Diego, drivers who agreed to the test didn't seem to mind the inconvenience if it helped to clean the air.

    "I think it's OK," said Johnson. "Fortunately, I have enough time. I'd like to know what's going on with my car. It's an older vehicle -- I'd like to be responsible."

    "I just had my car smogged not too long ago." said Ryan Walters of Escondido. "I would want to know if they did a bad job of it."