Are State Safety Inspections Of Vehicles Needed?

May 27, 2010

Vehicle Safety inspections are in the news as Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey attempts to balance the budget. Is the $12 million spent on inspections worth the effort if only six percent of the cars fail? This seems to be at the vortex of the decision making process on this issue. Emissions inspections would have to continue or the Garden State would risk losing federal highway dollars.

The elimination of safety and mechanical inspections is nothing new, 29 other states no longer require them. The Governor’s administration has questioned the effectiveness of state vehicle safety inspections but one recent study (March 2009) conducted in Pennsylvania found that its inspection program reduced fatal crashes and saved lives in that state. The findings went further to say that, “Nationally, vehicle safety inspection programs appear to be a significant factor in lowering fatal crashes.”

The safety portion of the inspection process includes everything from brakes to wiper blades. Is the failure rate a true measure of the program’s effectiveness? My experience tells me that it isn’t because car owners anticipate their need to pass the inspection thus skewing the rejection rate lower. Would the absence of safety inspections change the quality of the vehicles on the road? My answer is that vehicle integrity would undoubtedly suffer as more registrants would push the envelope in an effort to keep their cars on the road.

A driver came in with a flat tire in need of replacement and upon returning to pick the car up asked my opinion of the other tires, one of which was down to the wear bars. I told him that I thought it would not pass inspection, but he insisted on trying to get the car tagged without replacing the tire. Although this does contradict the idea of car owners anticipating the process it does support the notion some motorists will insist on driving cars with marginal equipment.

Mechanical and safety inspections accomplish another goal and that is to set a verifiable standard of what should be on the road and what should not be. I find that it is one thing to suggest that a part needs to be replaced because it has exhausted its useful life and quite another to emphasize that the driver’s safety and the safety of those sharing the road with him is at risk by not addressing the needed repair.

How about your attitude concerning safety inspections, just more aggravation, or an essential way to insure that the car behind you isn’t going to end up sharing your back seat when its brakes fail?

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