Why are drivers stopped at the border going into California?

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Picture courtesy reviewjournal.com via Google.

There is a border checkpoint on the Interstate 40 freeway that stops drivers going from Arizona to California (but not the other way). When I was a kid, they used to ask if you had any produce and then wave you through when you said No.

When I go through nowadays, I stop at the checkpoint. The guard doesn't say anything to me (or even look at me). After some time from 20 seconds to 5 minutes they wave me to go. They don't come out to my vehicle, ask me any questions or do anything that might seem constructive.

The couple of times that I asked what the deal was, the guy ignored my question and told me to go.

I have also stopped at the Nevada Border with similar results - no questions or any kind of inspection.

What are they actually doing anything at these checkpoints? Is there anything that I can do so I just don't sit there for a few minutes for no apparent reason?

  • 33
    Practicing for when California secedes. Dec 12, 2017 at 2:03
  • 6
    Is it possible the guard was looking on a screen at closed-circuit TV cameras surrounding your car, looking for signs of produce?
    – IanF1
    Dec 12, 2017 at 6:51
  • Are you of a typically discriminated against group, if you don't mind sharing?
    – FooBar
    Dec 12, 2017 at 15:42
  • @IanF1 - That's possible but my last truck had dark tinted windows that would make it hard to see in - especially when it's bright and sunny out. My current truck's tock tint is a little lighter. Dec 12, 2017 at 19:27
  • 1
    Could you record a video next time you go there?
    – JonathanReez
    Dec 13, 2017 at 0:23

2 Answers 2


It's a California agricultural inspection checkpoint. You can read an FAQ about who they are and what they're doing:


Our inspectors check vehicles and commodities for compliance with California and federal plant quarantine regulations. They also check commodities to make sure they are free from exotic invasive species that may be hitchhiking with them. Although the primary focus is on plant materials (i.e., fruits, vegetables, nursery stock, hay, firewood, etc.), other items are also frequently inspected.

They're mainly interested in commercial vehicles, boats, and cars coming from farther away.

  • 8
    I know that's what it was for but they don't seem to inspect anything nor ask any questions any more. I sit in my SUV while the guy in the shack ignores me for 1 to 5 minutes before waving me through. I think I could have a truck load of plants and bugs for all they know. Dec 11, 2017 at 22:03
  • 1
    Yes - the guy just stands in the booth while I sit in my truck. The couple of times that I asked what he needed, the guy ignored me and waived me through a minute or so later. Like in the picture, no one is walking around any vehicle. A couple of years ago, I was waived through without stopping. Dec 11, 2017 at 22:51
  • 8
    @HannoverFist It has been the case now for some years that they rarely inspect cars with license plates from California or the neighboring states, or even ask for homegrown fruits and veggies, like they used to. In fact, when it's busy, they'll only inspect bigger vehicles like boats, box trucks, and tractor trailers unless you're obviously hauling something like mulch or watermelons or ferrets. News reports say about 70% are waved through at Truckee, for example, with only a quick visual check.
    – choster
    Dec 11, 2017 at 23:31

California’s Border Protection Stations (BPS) are the first line of defense in our pest exclusion efforts. At these stations, vehicles are inspected for commodities infested with invasive species. California established its first agricultural inspection stations in the early 1920s. Today there are 16 of these facilities located on the major highways entering the State (see interactive map). At these stations, vehicles and commodities are checked to ensure they are pest free and meet all regulatory requirements.

Most years, more than 20 million private vehicles and 7 million commercial vehicles were inspected at the BPS. From these vehicles, inspectors rejected over 82,000 lots of plant material (fruits, vegetables, plants, etc.) because they were in violation of California or federal plant quarantine laws.

Watercraft, self-movers, recreational vehicles and utility vehicles comprise about five percent of the vehicles that pass through the stations yearly. Commercial vehicles cover over 25 percent of the traffic. The remaining 70% are classified as passenger private vehicles that are required to be screened for routes of travel determining pest risk and level of inspection. Inspectors are busy day in and day out, filtering and inspecting these 20 million vehicles that come into the State. As a result, inspectors intercepted thousands of contraband material annually.

https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/pe/ExteriorExclusion/borders.html This question belongs to Google.

  • 6
    Why do you say it belongs to Google? You don't even answer the question, just copy-paste the standard explanation. Why does he have to stop when they don't actually inspect his vehicle?
    – pipe
    Dec 12, 2017 at 8:26
  • 2
    @pipe I think what he's saying is that this question should have been googled instead. Which is also inappropriate for this site because the goal for this site is for every question to be the first result on Google when searching for something related to the question. In fact, right now, this question is at rank 5 on Google when googling the question that it starts with.
    – Nzall
    Dec 12, 2017 at 9:39

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