By Barbara Kessler
People might accuse Texas of being slow on global warming; it is the worst greenhouse gas emitter in the United States. But they can’t say that Lone Star residents don’t recognize pollution when it’s coming at them. A program in North Central Texas called Don’t Choke, Call Smoke that encourages drivers to call in when they see a smoking tailpipe, can brag that it drew 6,800 participants in its first year.
Drivers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are encouraged to rat out road mates whose tail pipes are spewing smoke for more than 10 seconds at a time, a sure sign that they’re probably not in compliance with clean air laws and are contributing more than their share of carbon emissions. The spotter can call #SMOKE on their cell phone or 817-704-2522 if they are using a land line and report the offender. Later, the “smoker” will later get a letter notifying him or her that “their car was observed creating excessive smoke, explaining the region’s air pollution problem and encouraging them to make any needed repairs or maintenance to their vehicles,’’ says Lara Rodriguez, a spokesperson for the North Texas Council of Governments, which created the program in February 2007.
Better a friendly reminder letter than a ticket, which could come with a $1,000 fine.
The polluter also gets info about the AirCheck Texas Repair and Replacement Assistance program that provides financial assistance to repair or replace vehicles that fail state emissions inspections, Ms. Rodriguez said.
Auto emissions are the leading cause of ground-level ozone pollution which plagues the Dallas-Fort Worth metro region, especially in the warmer months, and smoking vehicles or those with defective emissions controls contribute disproportionately to the problem. Ten-percent of the vehicles on the road cause 50 percent of the emissions, according to the Regional Smoking Vehicle Program website.