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Are Vehicle Safety Inspections a Ripoff? Many Texas Lawmakers Think So

Are Vehicle Safety Inspections a Ripoff? Many Texas Lawmakers Think So

On March 9, Sen. Donald Huffines, R-Dallas, filed a bill that would end annual vehicle safety inspections. Seven Democrats and one Republican signed on as sponsors of the legislation, Senate Bill 1588.

Huffines says the safety inspection program is “antiquated” and a “ripoff to Texas taxpayers.” The fee for the annual inspection is $14.25 per vehicle, which Huffines says is a financial burden for households with multiple vehicles. His legislation would not eliminate emissions testing.

The Texas State Inspection Association, which conducts both emissions and safety inspections, says the safety tests help keep dangerous cars off the road. That’s a claim that is subject to debate.

What the Federal Government Says

Between November 2014 and August 2015, the U.S. Government Accountability Office conducted a performance audit of 15 state vehicle safety inspection programs. The GAO released its audit report in August 2015, which found “the benefits and costs of such programs are difficult to quantify.”

The GAO learned that in 2014, 529,000 vehicles in Pennsylvania failed to pass the vehicle safety program initially and had to undergo repairs to pass. But whether that made the state safer is unknown, because according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, vehicle component failure plays a role in only 2 to 7 percent of all crashes.

Of states with vehicle safety inspection programs, 16 terminated those programs before 2015 – among them, the neighboring states of New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Arkansas (Louisiana still has an inspection program). Oklahoma found no evidence that its program reduced highway crashes or injuries. And an official in Washington D.C. told the GAO it eliminated its inspection program after data revealed that driver error – not mechanical failure – caused most crashes in the district.

Many officials told the GAO they would like guidance from the NHTSA and that they have questions related to vehicle safety that the NHTSA has either not responded to or failed to clarify. As a result, vehicle inspection programs may vary from state to state and may lack rules that apply to new vehicle technology. The GAO recommended in its report that the NHTSA establish a “communication channel” to allow for the better exchange of safety information with state leaders.

Next Steps

The Texas State Inspection Association is opposed to scrapping the safety program, as it was in 2015 when Huffines introduced similar legislation that did not make it to a committee hearing. This year, as of April 11, SB1588 was among the pending legislation referred to the Senate Natural Resources & Economic Development Committee. The bill must pass through both a Senate and House committee and survive Senate and House votes before making it to the governor’s desk for signing.

Attorney Chip Evans

Austin Attorney Chip EvansChip Evans is a partner at Evans & Herlihy. Chip brings to the firm more than 20 years of experience as a trial lawyer representing Plaintiffs. It is the desire to help individuals, not corporations, that attracts Chip to this side of the docket. [ Attorney Bio ]