Here are ten steps you can take to reduce smog and improve the health of your community.
1. Drive the cleanest possible vehicle.
2. Drive a newer vehicle.
3. Drive a car instead of a truck, SUV, van, or minivan.
4. Drive a low miles vehicle.
5. Maintain your vehicle.
6. Sell oldest vehicles to local or state authorities.
7. Drive smoothly.
8. Drive less.
9. Warn friends and neighbors about the pollution their vehicles emit.
10. Report a smoking vehicle.
Whether you are in the market for a new or used car or truck, or simply choosing which of two family vehicles to drive, selecting the cleanest option will reduce your personal contribution to air pollution and asthma rates. Use our Auto Asthma Index to learn which vehicles are the best choices for your community.
California drivers can check the smog history of individual vehicles before making a purchase, to see if a particular vehicle has had smog problems in the past. Other states may offer similar programs.
There are no two ways about it. Older vehicles are much more polluting than newer vehicles. For example, a typical 1995 car produces ten times more smog chemical pollution than a typical 2000 car. Older vehicles use out-dated emissions control technology, were designed to meet less health protective emissions standards, and have often experienced more wear and tear over the years.
Trucks, SUVs, vans, and minivans are legally allowed to produce more pollution than cars. Oversized vehicles, those weighing more than 8,500 pounds fully loaded, are allowed to emit even more pollution. These exceptions were cemented into law by automakers in the earliest days of vehicle regulation. Once designed for commercial uses, these vehicles have exploded into the consumer market as personal vehicles.
These regulatory loopholes have allowed automakers to install cheap, even obselete emissions control equipment on these vehicles. On average, new trucks, SUVs, vans, and minivans produce 50 percent more smog chemical pollution than new cars, while new oversized vehicles produce more than twice the pollution of new cars.
US and California emissions standards for these vehicles will become more health protective over the next few years. If you are planning to purchase one of these vehicles in the future, they should be substantially cleaner than older models. However, until regulators force automakers to install the best technology in all their vehicles, those who drive trucks, SUVs, vans, minivans, and oversized vehicles will be responsible for an excessive amount of smog chemical pollution.
High miles vehicles have experienced more wear and tear, and produce more smog chemical pollution than similar vehicles with fewer miles. For example, a typical car made in 2000 that has been driven between 80 and 100 thousand miles emits nearly twice as much smog chemical pollution as one that has been driven between 20 and 40 thousand miles.
Bring your vehicle to the mechanic as soon as the 'check engine' light comes on. The light may be letting you know that your pollution emissions have exceeded 150 percent of the EPA standard for your vehicle. In addition, give your vehicle regular tune-ups and change your fuel and air filters at least once a year or every 12,000 miles. Basic maintenance measures like these keep your engine running smoothly and efficiently.
Many regions offer buy back programs to get the oldest, highest polluting cars off the road—without penalizing low-income drivers. Check the government listings of the phone book to find out if you live in an area with a vehicle buy back (or voluntary accelerated vehicle retirement) program.
By driving smoothly, you avoid taxing your engine with sharp acceleration and braking. Reducing engine stress by using a less aggressive driving style allows your engine to run more cleanly and efficiently.
Less driving means less air pollution and better health for everyone. Americans drive an increasing number of miles each year. This trend undercuts what would otherwise be a substantial improvement in vehicle emissions over the past 20 years.
Instead of driving, use public transit, walk, or ride a bike. Postpone driving errands whenever possible on hot, smoggy days. When you must drive, try to carpool, and link trips together.
Your friends and neighbors may not know that the pollution from cars and trucks can affect the health of your community. Help educate them by telling them about the Auto Asthma Index.
If you see a vehicle that produces smoky exhaust, you may be able to report it to local air quality officials. Check the government listings of the phone book to find out how to report smoking vehicles in your area.