Getting rid of safety inspections a bad idea

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Mike Causey

Mike Causey

RALEIGH — A Senate Bill filed in the North Carolina General Assembly would eliminate the annual safety inspection program for automobiles.  SB 123, Eliminate Motor Vehicle Safety Inspections, was filed by Sen. Stan Bingham (R-Davidson).

This legislation is a bad idea, according to safety experts. They say inspections are necessary to make sure drivers are maintaining their cars. Without the safety inspections, car owners might skip routine repairs, leading to accidents when brakes malfunction, ball joints wear out, or headlights don’t work.

Craig Smith, a public relations and safety education director for AAA Motor Club says, “Without an inspection in place, people are going to cut corners whenever they can, just like they try to get away without having insurance; So in these tight economic times, this is even more crucial.”


Naturally, the auto repair shops that perform safety inspections are strongly against this legislation. The shop owners have invested heavily in the expensive equipment that is required for motor vehicle safety inspections and emissions inspections. SB 123 would not eliminate emissions inspections, but just safety inspections that began in the 1940s.

According to shop owners, the most frequently found problems involve worn brakes, ball joints, and tires. Sen. Bingham has stated that the only things usually “caught” in vehicle safety inspections are “tail lights, horns, and other non-safety, obvious things.”

Currently, Vehicle Safety Inspections cost $13.60 — or $30 when the vehicle emissions testing is included.

According to Sen. Bingham, new technology cars, in addition to better roads, means that cars can operate safely for longer periods of time. However, Sen. Bingham added that he was open to inspections for older vehicles or approving longer times between inspections.

One conservative article stated, “Eliminating the vehicle safety inspection would be one small step closer to less government intervention into the daily lives of North Carolinians.”

Mark Newell, with his Internet post disagrees: There are approximately 6.1 million vehicles in N.C. which have to participate in the safety inspection program. Based on data provided by Mr. Binghams office, 7 to 9 percent of vehicles fail for one reason or the other, mostly bulbs, etc. That means about 427,000 (7 percent) vehicles fail in N.C. each year. If only a third of those vehicles are failing for a serious problems (bald or worn tires, ineffective wipers), that means 140,000 unsafe cars would be driving our highways with our wives, daughters and sons. To me the $13.60 I spend on a safety inspection is worth knowing that these vehicles would not be endangering my loved ones!

Personally, I agree with Mr. Newell and the thousands of independent garage owners in North Carolina who think this bill is a bad idea. If you want to weigh in on this debate, call or write your state legislator today.

Mike Causey is the state coordinator for the Adopt-A-Highway Program with the NC Department of Transportation.