Traffic Cop: Where There’s Smoke, There Isn’t Always a Fire

trafficsafetytipsMonty, we have a question/concern: Occasionally we see a vehicle emitting huge amounts of black smoke from its exhaust, literally lowering visibility and stinking up the highway. Can and will an officer ticket such a vehicle? It looks like that one vehicle could offset hundreds of properly smogged ones.

California Air Resource Board Grants under the Carl Moyer Program are available to help companies reduce diesel emissions.

There are a couple of vehicle code sections that deal with this issue. First, no motor vehicle shall be operated in a manner resulting in the escape of excessive smoke, flame, gas, oil, or fuel residue (CVC 27153).

This section is generally the one that an officer will cite should he/she encounter the type of violation that you are describing. The key word in that violation is excessive. What constitutes excessive? We have all seen some older model vehicle driving down the road with black smoke pouring from the exhaust pipe. Not too much debate on something like that, but what about those that only smoke when you start them up or accelerate and then they stop? This next portion of the vehicle code addresses that.

Ringelmann Chart, United States Bureau of Mines 1967: 1 is lightest, 4 is darkest

No motor vehicle first sold or registered as a new motor vehicle on or after January 1, 1971, shall discharge into the atmosphere at elevation of less than 4,000 feet any air contaminant for a period of more than 10 seconds which is:
(1) As dark or darker in shade than that designated as No. 2 on the Ringelmann Chart, as published by the United States Bureau of Mines.
(CVC 27153.5)

So I can guess your next question. What the heck is a Ringelmann Chart? My best description is that it is a rectangular piece of paper with the end of the paper resembling a doughnut (they needed something to get the officer’s attention) with the doughnut end having several shades of gray to black on the outer ring of the doughnut and you look through the hole to compare the actual smoke to the shade on the chart. Every CHP officer is issued one of these (no, not donuts; charts), or they are available at all CHP offices.

In most instances, an officer can pretty well judge by just looking at the smoke from the exhaust and seeing that it continues to emit for more than 10 seconds and take the appropriate enforcement action.

Do you know the answer to this: Is a helmet required when riding a trike, 3-wheeled motorcycle? We would never ride without a helmet, but have always wondered if it is a requirement. And how about insurance on a trike? Is it the same as insurance on a motorcycle?

Helmets are required when riding a trike in California.

By definition, your trike is considered a motorcycle as far as registration and equipment purposes. This means that the driver and any passenger shall wear a safety helmet meeting requirements established pursuant to Section 27802 when riding on a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized bicycle.

The biggest difference between riding a three-wheeled motor vehicle and a motorcycle is that you are not required to have a motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license. As far as insurance is concerned, you need to check with your individual insurance companies. I spoke with my insurance carrier and found that there would be no change in the actual amount I paid, for the same coverage.

After reviewing that last paragraph, I realized that I am completely incorrect in saying that the biggest different between riding the two types of vehicles is licensing. As anyone who has ridden both vehicles will tell you, they are two completely different animals. The dynamics of a motorcycle are far different than a trike, but my point simply is that because of these differences, a motorcycle endorsement is not required for a trike or a motorcycle with a sidecar.

So, thank you for your questions. Thank you for always wearing a helmet, and with that, please go out and enjoy the ride.

Monty Hight is a retired California Highway Patrol officer and Public Information Officer. He is the North State AVOID Campaign’s Public Information Officer. He lives in Redding. More information on AVOID can be found here.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.

Monty Hight

Monty Hight is a retired California Highway Patrol officer and public information officer. He is the North State AVOID Campaign’s spokesman. He lives in Redding.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments