Attention drivers: Your help needed to avoid dangerous air

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) The year's first air alert has been sounded for the San Joaquin Valley.

Dangerous air quality is more of a danger as crops are harvested and schools get back in session. The Valley Air District said 80 percent of the valley's ozone is caused by mobile sources, so cutting down on idling cars during school drop-offs and pickups is critical.

Motorist are also asked to carpool and avoid fast-food drive-throughs to counterbalance the increased school traffic.

Air alerts are meant to keep the region from exceeding federal air quality standards. Failure means a $29 million federal penalty.

The brunt of the federal penalty is paid by citizens as a $12 fee added to vehicle registrations.

High temperatures and stagnant air flow this time of year can also contribute to poor air quality.

The Clean Air Act says the maximum ozone level recorded in an area cannot exceed 125 parts per billion. A recording of 154 ppb last September in Clovis, east of Fresno, subjected the valley to the federal fine through at least next year.

None of the region's air quality monitoring stations are allowed to exceed the ozone standard more than three times in three years.