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Smog checkpoint surprises Rocklin drivers

By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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An impromptu smog checkpoint on Pacific Street just south of Rocklin Road last Thursday surprised motorists. Some drivers questioned the reasoning for the surprise inspection. Rocklin driver Daniel Victorin ate his lunch while standing on the sidewalk as technicians working with the state’s Bureau of Automotive Repair checked the emissions of his 1994 Jeep Cherokee. The mobile smog inspection station, surrounded by orange cones, blocked the curb lane across the street from the Big Gun Quarry. “I just got it smogged this year and it cleared,” Victorin said. “I have very little time. I am coming from work, went to do some errands and then I have to get back to work. It’s an inconvenience, but you have to do it.” As he was waiting, a minivan filled with children was waived away from the checkpoint at the direction of a uniformed California Highway Patrol officer. “I guess they don’t have to do it,” Victorin pointed out. BAR technicians handed out fliers explaining the program to drivers who pointed out the voluntary evaluation brought no consequences or fines. Motorists didn’t get a break if they passed. “If you are a gross polluter, you should do the right thing and get it fixed,” Victorin said. “Unfortunately, I should have taken the freeway.” The roadside audit, as BAR refers to the checkpoint, is actually more of a check of the statewide Smog Check system rather than checking up on drivers. BAR conducts random statewide roadside audits of vehicles previously smogged. The results from these inspections are used to evaluate the performance of the Smog Check Program in achieving Clean Air Act requirements. The checkpoint was a passing curiosity to Rocklin resident Robert Elsemore, who spotted it while heading out for breakfast. He returned on a mountain bike to check it out. “I decided to come back and check it out on my bike. I didn’t want to cause any trouble,” Elsemore said. “I’m not looking for a citation.” Elsemore watched and learned as a car went through the 10-minute process. “That could make you late,” Elsemore said. “I don’t think you have the option with the CHP there. If you say, ‘I’m late for work. I think I’ll pass’. They would probably say step out of the car and spread em’.” Not true, according to officials, but the officer directing traffic was certainly intimidating to Elsemore. “You get smogged every two years,” Elsemore concluded. “They are still frequent enough to still keep your car tuned-up and safe running. This seems a little excessive.” According to a Sierra Research study paid for by the Air Resources Board and BAR, 49-percent of the vehicles that failed a roadside inspection had failed, and then subsequently passed a tailpipe inspection at a smog check station. Additionally, of the 1976-1995-era vehicles sampled, 19 percent of the vehicles initially passed a tailpipe inspection at a licensed smog check station, but failed a roadside inspection within a year. The study did not evaluate the reasons for the failure rate at the roadside inspections. If stations were performing right, the emissions benefits would improve by nearly 70 tons per day, the study concluded. Just one block away Dane Chea, owner of Holt Automotive Repair, hoped the random checkpoint near his shop would help business. “Tune-ups, we can do that,” Chea said. However, Chea does feel for the drivers in a hurry. “It’s ridiculous,” Chea said. “It’s taking time away from people. Everybody’s busy.” For more information about the roadside audit program, go to BAR’s website: www.smogcheck.ca.gov.