Smog Spotter program allows motorists to report violators
If you’ve lived in Las Vegas for more than a few days, chances are you’ve seen a car belching smoke so thick you can barely tell what color it is. Smog Spotter, a campaign by the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles, is designed to stop that.
“We’re hoping to create awareness,” said David Fierro, spokesman for the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles. “The program has been in place for 20 years, but any campaign gets stale and stops drawing attention.”
Motor vehicle exhaust is one of the contributing factors in the valley’s lowered air quality, and preventing that is the reason vehicles in the urban areas around Las Vegas and Reno are required to have an emissions test annually. The test measures hydrocarbons emitted in the exhaust.
The urban areas of Nevada have been designated “nonattainment areas” by the Environmental Protection Agency, meaning that air pollution levels persistently exceed the national ambient air quality standards.
There are different standards and methods for different vehicles, depending on their weight and year, but all are required to pass the test before they can be registered. Las Vegas motorists who fail an emissions test can get a one-year waiver if they spend $450 on repairs.
The rebranding of the Smog Spotter program, formerly called Smoking Vehicles, started May 27, with the launch of several methods for reporting violators, including new local numbers; a new website, smogspotter.com; and a website designed for mobile devices.
“A lot of people report directly from their mobile devices,” Fierro said. “Of course, if you’re accessing the site from your smart device, the first question it asks is if you are driving. We don’t want to encourage one violation to stop another. It can wait.”
Owners of reported vehicles are sent a letter, making them aware of the situation. If a second report is received on the same vehicle, a certified letter is sent. Multiple reports of the same vehicle may result in an investigation or a letter instructing the owner to have the emissions checked. Additionally, law enforcement officers may cite drivers for excessive emissions.
In May, the program received 457 calls and emails from the Las Vegas area and sent out 510 letters to residents whose vehicles were reported.
Often, the problem is simply a vehicle falling into disrepair at some date after a smog check. There are also some disreputable parties producing false smog tests, said Kevin Malone, a Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize that’s a federal crime,” Malone said. “The emissions standards are mandated by the EPA. We can usually spot false tests by data mining. A big case wrapped up recently where a whole ring of people doing it were convicted.”