'Rolling coal' isn't a statement, it's a crime
You've all seen them, those diesel pickups idling at a stoplight, then a burst of billowing, black, noxious exhaust when the light turns green.
Because your car is hemmed in by other traffic, you're powerless to avoid the assault that's drifting your way.
There's an actual name for what you're experiencing — rolling coal.
You're correct to assume the soot from the tailpipe is completely preventable given proper maintenance and routine use of common fuel additives. And you're also right to assume that some of these drivers intentionally equip those pickups to produce the black exhaust.
Some people might look upon rolling coal as a harmless prank.
Others may even consider it as political commentary, striking a blow of proud resistance against those who believe humans play a role in climate change.
But it's not funny or an appropriate political commentary.
At its core, it's toxic pollution harmful to human health, and it's juvenile behavior. Oh, and it's a crime.
Why write about this?
The idea for this column came about when a Sandy man submitted an anonymous letter to The Sandy Post about the dangers associated with rolling coal, saying he'd been the victim of the black cloud on more than one occasion as a cyclist.
The writer cited fear of retaliation as the reason for seeking anonymity. Considering today's social and political climate, his concerns are understandable.
As a matter of policy, the Pamplin Media Group doesn't publish unsigned letters to the editor.
Still, he makes a good point: Rolling coal is illegal, and the operators of these pickups could be cited.
Drop "ORS 815.200" into an online search engine and you'll discover the law pertaining to the maximum allowable level of visible emission from a motor vehicle. Run another search for "ORS 166.025" and you'll find the law governing disorderly conduct, as described as creating "a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which the person is not licensed or privileged to do."
They won't read this column
The people responsible for rolling coal don't read news or opinion pieces that find fault with their behavior. Even if they did, it would take a miracle for even one to read this commentary and voluntarily clean up their act. We'll still be sitting in traffic behind these coughing-wheezing-choking-sputtering polluters.
More likely, this column just adds diesel to their fire.
Instead, this column is directed at anyone who has ever paid the price of being near or behind one of these rigs. Some of their favorite targets are pedestrians, cyclists and people who drive electric vehicles.
The only way we'll take the smoke out of these tailpipes is if the owners of these vehicles are held accountable for their actions
Here's the call to action
Stop shrugging your shoulders in silent surrender and make some noise of your own.
No, don't confront them. That's a recipe for disaster. Vigilante policing is a bad, bad, bad idea. Did I mention it's a bad idea?
Instead, when it's safe, write down the make, color, license plate number and where and when you saw the pickup blow smoke.
Then call the local police and report what you saw.
In Gresham, where the police department is in crisis mode because of its staffing level, don't plan on seeing your report rise to the surface as a top priority. It won't, and that's understandable.
But if you're in Sandy, you just might get a different response.
The Sandy police chief — in a brief email conversation about rolling coal — wrote, "We would follow up if a violation or crime had been committed."
The police may not be able to respond quickly based on higher-priority calls, but it's important that they know this is a topic of genuine concern in the communities they serve.
If you don't like breathing in the cancerous exhaust from these pickups, then report them to the police.
As long as no one makes it an issue with law enforcement, these bullies will keep blowing smoke unchecked. The collective passivity of everyone who witnesses this behavior and does nothing but fume with silent rage, is exactly what these people are counting on.
You let them win by saying nothing.
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