House Votes to Dump Safety Inspections for Cars

Representative Dan McCay (Republican – Riverton) began his defense of legislation that would remove safety inspections on all vehicles in the state by telling the tongue-in-cheek sob story of how his 2005 Chevy Silverado failed a safety inspection in 2012 due to a broken light over the rear license plate.

“I know it saved my life and yours” McCay told the body as he launched into the merits of HB 265 – Safety Inspection Amendments, which would remove safety inspections for all privately owned vehicles, while commercial vehicles would still require inspection.

McCay told the body that the 34 states that have done away with inspections would be “practically uninhabitable” because “hundreds-of-thousands of cars [would be] careening down the road with parts flying everywhere” if safety inspections truly made a difference, noting that less than one percent of all accidents are caused by a mechanical failure. The South Salt Lake County lawmaker would admit that some people do learn of issues related to their vehicles due to an inspection – but McCay felt just as many are putting off repairs until they have to have their car inspected, meaning unsafe vehicles are on the road longer than they need to be.

McCay would go on to add that market demands for safer vehicles, along with complimentary multi-point inspections while getting things like oil changes, mean that people are not only driving safer vehicles when compared to when the safety inspection were first put into law, but that they are also receiving more timely information about their vehcile than a simple annual inspection could provide. Finally, McCay would argue that the real focus of state policy should be on the drivers, where human error is the cause of over 90 percent of all accidents.

Representative Lee Perry (Republican – Perry), a Utah Highway Patrol officer outside of the legislature, told the body that the first call he took after a previous legislative session that reduced the number of safety inspections for cars involved a car that failed a safety inspection due to faulty breaks. Through a series of sales and trades, an innocent individual received the car, unknowing of the brake failure, and careened off the side of a canyon. Had the driver known, Perry reasoned, that the brakes were faulty, he may have attended to the issue before going down the narrow roadway.

Perry then went on to inform House members that roughly 60,000 cars fail their safety inspections a year. “These are 60,000 vehicles that we are hoping [to find]… If [The Utah Highway Patrol] has to catch those 60,000 cars because of serious safety concerns [instead of getting inspected], it would take at least 40 troopers stopping 15,000 cars a day to make up for the 60,000 that are now being caught.”

Representative Derrin Owens (Republican – Fountain Green) likened the safety inspection to a tax and government overreach. Owens put the onus on owners to be responsible and make sure that their cars are properly maintained. Representative Brad Daw (Republican – Orem) went on to question various statistics, ultimately stating that if safety inspections were so critical, why would so many states were dropping safety inspections.

Representative Jim Dunnigan (Republican – Taylorsville) directly countered this point by stating that his concerns are not with those that do get the complimentary inspections, but that “there is a percent of the population that will drive the car until the breaks fall off and the muffler falls off and the tires fall off and those are the ones I meet up on the freeway…I happen to think it protects us.” He would close by complementing the policy of requiring safety inspections, considering it a service rather than a tax.

McCay, during his summation, repeated his call that the state should focus more on preventing the human errors that cause the majority of accidents, asking the body to end the outdated procedure. The House agreed, voting 45-29. It will be sent to the Senate for its consideration.

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