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SURVEY FINDS MOST UTAHNS ARE AWARE OF NO-DRIVE DAYS

A huge majority of Utahns have heard of "no-drive days," but only 15 percent say they have actually left their car at home and found another way to work, the latest Deseret News/KSL survey shows.

Seventy-seven percent of the respondents said they were familiar with no-drive days; 22 percent said they had never heard of the concept.The state Division of Air Quality implemented no-drive days this year to curb ground-level ozone, a pollutant that threatens not only health and the environment but could cut off millions of dollars in federal funding if Utah doesn't clean it up.

While upper-atmosphere ozone blocks ultraviolet solar radiation, ozone at ground level is a respiratory irritant. It is formed by a mixture of sunlight, heat and volatile organic compounds emitted by petroleum products, primarily gasoline.

On high-ozone days, the state calls no-drive days, asking commuters in Salt Lake and Davis counties to carpool, walk, ride a bike or ride the bus. There were five no-drive days this summer.

Fifteen percent of Utahns said they had actually participated in a no-drive day, but 81 percent said they had not.

Many of the respondents to the survey, of course, live outside Salt Lake and Davis counties and are not asked to participate in no-drive days.

A slightly larger percentage of people living in the two counties say they participated in no-drive days - 19 percent in Salt Lake and 24 percent in Davis.

Those numbers, though, may not be too meaningful because some people already use alternative transportation, regardless of designated no-drive days.

Nevertheless, the poll results delighted air-quality officials, who say a major goal of their campaign this year was to educate the public.

"It was surprising to me," said Russell Roberts, director of the division. "The 77 percent verifies we were successful in raising the awareness of the general public in air pollution issues."

The random survey of 605 Utahns was conducted Aug. 23-25. It has a margin error of plus or minus 4 percent.