3/31/20162015 Government Report Questions Vehicle Inspection Value
Government Accountability Office concludes that state vehicle inspection programs waste motorist time and money.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) wonders whether state vehicle inspection programs have any real value in terms of safety. In an audit report issued in August, the watchdog agency examined the safety inspection programs in fifteen of the sixteen states that have them. The auditors compared outcomes in these jurisdictions with four of the states that recently dumped their inspection programs.
Every state with a current inspection operation insisted that it significantly boosted safety. Under these programs, motorists are charged up to $55 to have their car checked at a specially licensed service station on an annual or biennial basis. To prove their point, state officials cited the number of vehicles that flunked the test and were forced to have expensive repairs performed -- usually at the same station that performed the inspection.
GAO auditors were not satisfied with this level of proof. They examined 29 studies that looked at crash data figures and found no statistically significant safety benefit in the states that had inspection programs, as only about 6.8 percent of accidents are linked to equipment failure.
"Despite the consensus among the state inspection program officials we interviewed that these programs improve vehicle condition, research remains inconclusive about the effect of safety inspection programs on crash rates," the GAO reported. "There is little recent empirical research on the relationship between vehicle safety inspection programs and whether these programs reduce crash rates."
GAO's findings are not unique. A legislative report in North Carolina found that there was no measurable safety benefit to the program, even though it costs motorists $165 million per year (view report). About 97.7 percent of vehicles tested in the state passed. While cars between ten and thirty years old failed more often, they represent a fraction of the state's vehicle fleet. The reasons cited for failure most often were defective tires, burned out stop lights, inadequate windshield wipers. A total of 30,238 people were failed because of a burned out license plate light, a defect that has no impact on safety.
Citing similar evidence, Texas state Senator Don Huffines (R-Dallas) wants to dump his state's inspection program.
"In classic big-government fashion, the passenger vehicle safety inspection is predicated on a false promise," Huffines wrote. "For our state to continue to be a beacon of freedom, it would do us good to remember that the enemy of liberty does not always reside in Washington, DC. Sometimes it's closer to home, in Austin."
A copy of the report is available in a 1.8mb PDF file at the source link below.