To decrease ozone-forming emissions from a high-polluting vehicle as soon as possible, North Texans who see smoke pouring from a vehicle tailpipe are encouraged to report it by dialing #SMOKE on a cell phone or going to www.smokingvehicle.net.

To protect the air, North Texas vehicles by law must annually pass an emissions test, but much can happen the 364 days between state inspections. Alerting vehicle owners to potential _emissions-related problems, sooner rather than later, helps improve the region’s air quality. Additionally, Texas law prohibits visible motor vehicle exhaust for 10 consecutive seconds.

To assist vehicle owners and improve air quality, the Regional Smoking Vehicle Program allows residents to report high-emitting, smoking vehicles by calling #SMOKE from a cell phone — it is a free call with most wireless providers. Callers are asked to report the Texas license plate number and where and when they saw the vehicle. Drivers can also report vehicles by dialing 817-704-2522 or entering information online at www.smokingvehicle.net.

Since the program launched in March 2007, about 15,350 vehicles have been reported.

Owners of reported vehicles receive a letter explaining the importance and benefits of regular vehicle maintenance. The letter also provides information about local solutions like the AirCheckTexas Drive a Clean Machine Program, which offers financial assistance for eligible vehicle owners to pay for emissions-related repairs. A follow-up survey is sent after the initial notice. More than 1,500 surveys have been returned and 431 respondents have repaired the reported vehicle. About 100 others said the reported vehicle was no longer in operation.

The program is implemented through a partnership between the North Central Texas Council of Governments and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Aside from reporting smoking vehicles, there are 14 other clean air choices encouraged through _Air North Texas, a regional public awareness campaign and partnership to educate residents and motivate them to commit to clean air choices. Other things to do: carpool, avoid idling and maintain vehicles.

Almost half of all the ozone-forming emissions come from cars and trucks. Keeping tires properly inflated and rotated regularly, replacing air filters annually and changing oil and oil filters according to the owner’s manual all help a vehicle run more efficiently which reduces pollution. More clean air choices are online at www.airnorthtexas.org.

The nine counties of Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman, Parker, Rockwall and Tarrant are classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as moderate nonattainment for eight-hour ozone levels.

“Reducing ozone-forming pollution and improving air quality are important to protecting the health and welfare of North Texans today and sustaining the quality of life for tomorrow,” a spokesman said.

The North Central Texas Council of Governments is a voluntary association of local governments established in 1966 to assist local governments in planning for common needs, cooperating for mutual benefit and coordinating for sound regional development. NCTCOG's purpose is to strengthen both the individual and collective power of local governments and to help them recognize regional opportunities, eliminate unnecessary duplication, and make joint decisions.

NCTCOG serves a 16-county region of North Central Texas, which is centered on the two urban centers of Dallas and Fort Worth. NCTCOG has 233 member governments including 16 counties, 165 cities, 23 school districts and 29 special districts.