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January 30, 2020 · OPINION

State vehicle inspections save money and lives

By Emily Melton

The government is intended to operate in the interest of the people they serve. If the majority of the people that the government serves are interested in abolishing the annual state inspection mandate for vehicles, then that is what should happen.

However, there are unintended consequences to removing our annual time and financial inconvenience of visiting an auto repair shop that we may not trust. Our driver’s education does not properly equip our youth with the ability to properly inspect their own vehicles for safety. We are barely taught how to drive in reverse, let alone check that our suspension systems are functioning properly. Frankly, I am not sure that many of my friends can tell when their brake pads are worn or their rotors are warped. We are not given an anatomy lesson on the undercarriage of our cars to know that we should watch for wobbling u-joints or drive shafts.

A 2018 study done by the University of Texas at Austin for Transportation Research determined that crashes involving vehicles with defects are twice as likely to result in a fatality as crashes involving vehicles without defects. Crashes related to vehicles with defects total more than $2 billion annually.

It is no great stretch to equate more cars with defects on the roads with higher insurance rates. Damaged vehicles will cost more to repair to a safe standard or could be more readily declared totaled. reports that Virginia had the third cheapest average car insurance premiums of any state in the nation in 2019. That statistic is quite remarkable considering we have the busiest highway in the nation. D.C. eliminated their safety inspection requirement for privately owned vehicles in 2009, and their insurance rates average premiums were the fifth most expensive in the nation in 2019.

Finally, and perhaps most obviously, state inspection requirements bring money into our economies by funding our blue-collar car mechanics. Most of that $20 inspection fee goes into the state coffers, but the money generated to replace brakes and rotors, windshield wipers and brake lights of those eight million cars being inspected annually go to help our auto repair shop owners and mechanics take their families out to dinner on Friday nights.

Before, you cheer for the reduced regulation, please consider whether you have the knowledge to ensure your vehicle remains safe or that the person driving on your bumper knows their vehicle is safe even if their driving is not. Also consider whether the $20 inconvenience is less desirable than a most assuredly more expensive insurance payment for each vehicle in our commonwealth.

Personally, I would rather have the opportunity to communicate with my neighborhood mechanic once a year than pay my insurance company more money. Yes, I am biased. I grew up as the daughter of a mechanic, but I have had to transfer my car’s care to an auto repair shop closer to my new home.
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