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Do we want inspections?

Where do you stand on mandatory, periodic safety inspections for vehicles registered to operate on pubic roadways?  It’s yet another level of government involvement and increased regulation, but given the operating condition of certain automobiles, inspections might have merit.

As for one concerned driver, reader B.K. believes that scheduled, sanctioned inspections could aid in the elimination of the egregious maintenance violations he sees in his travels.  His wishes are not excessively demanding, since he simply wants a car or truck operating around him to be “whole,” having “all of its parts, including bumpers, fenders, headlights, and without windshield cracks or spider webs.”

His email message continued with examples, noting, “Daily, we see cars with only one headlight or taillight/brake light functional.  Some car owners’ solution to fixing a taillight is taping on some red clear paper.  There are many cars on the road with only one headlight and with the opposite headlight gone completely.  Missing windows covered with plastic, bald tires, cars on the road with the spare tire mounted (the little donut tire) as a solution to buying a new tire.  And what about excessive smoke emitters?” 

He does not believe it is right for owners who don’t maintain their vehicles or affect safety features with amateur repairs to endanger themselves or others.  He resents driving among them while he keeps his car in proper working order with all of its “bits and pieces” intact.

As an extreme example, B.K. said, “Last summer, I saw a four door sedan in Coeur d’Alene that had its top cut off.   As you know a sedan is not built to be a convertible.”

He also points out that many European countries have programs to assure that the vehicles on their roads are “safe and whole.”  Additionally, he applauds the minority of American states that perform safety inspections.  Such inspections would disallow operation of the “convertible” B.K. saw, and would not endorse the use of duct tape, visqueen, or red cellophane for repairs.

For certain, many vehicle owners defer needed maintenance, or perform unsafe amateur repairs. That’s the justification for requiring inspections with accompanying “safety stickers” in the District of Columbia and 19 states:  Delaware, Illinois, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.

A few of the remaining states have safety inspection requirements for vehicles when changing ownership, but those do not include Washington, Idaho or Oregon.

Most states, including Washington, require periodic safety inspections for commercial vehicles, and it seems that applying that philosophy to passenger vehicles could enhance overall traffic safety.  All states do, however, publish required vehicle standards regarding necessary equipment (lights, horn, windshield, tread depth, windshield, bumper height, et cetera) that can be enforced if an officer in the field sees and cites the infraction.

Inspections are undoubtedly a controversial topic.  Some of the states currently making inspections (like Mississippi) consider legislation to eliminate them every year.

So, are you for or against the idea of mandatory vehicle safety inspections?  I suspect that the answer is “yes” for many who properly maintain their cars and trucks, and “no” for those who don’t.  Also, it may be a “no” for some who maintain their vehicles but don’t want the bother of an annual visit to an inspection station — I think that describes me.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at precisiondriving@spokesman.com.

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