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Report: State should re-evaluate safety inspection program

Posted December 16, 2008

— The North Carolina General Assembly should re-evaluate the need for an automobile safety inspection program in light of a report showing no evidence exists that the program is effective, the lawmakers' Program Evaluation Division recommended Tuesday.

Annually, North Carolinians spend $141 million on inspections. The Division of Motor Vehicles and the Division of Air Quality spend $40.8 million administering safety and emissions inspections.

The Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee directed the Program Evaluation Division to determine if the programs were effective.

In findings released Tuesday, auditors said it is impossible “to determine how much vehicle emissions inspections contribute to the improvement of overall air quality.” Also, the DMV’s program oversight was found to be inadequate.

Greater emphasis should be placed on older vehicles, as they are more likely to fail inspection tests, auditors recommend. The report cited that other states that exempt newer vehicles from inspections.

Auditors suggest the DMV start analyzing information it collects and use it to improve the inspection program. These would include annual reports from the Division of Air Quality, which is part of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

DMV Commissioner William C. Gore said his department had been unable to review DAQ’s reports from 2002 to 2006 because they were suspended during the expansion of the emissions program. In 2007, reportable program evaluations resumed, Gore said.

The Legislature's Fiscal Research Division also should review both inspection programs to ensure an efficient and appropriate allocation of resources, auditors recommended.

The vehicle safety inspection program has been in existence for 42 years and the emission program for 28 years. The efficiency of the programs had not been independently reviewed since the mid-1990s.

In response to the report, B. Keith Overcash, director of the s Division of Air Quality, said the state’s air quality is “improving,” but it is difficult to determine the contribution of the emissions-inspection program.

The DAQ disagrees with the recommendation to exempt the most recent model years from emissions inspections, Overcash said. New cars have the potential to be a larger contributor of air pollutants than older vehicles, DAQ said.

The reasoning was that there are likely to be more newer cars and they are likely to be driven more frequently and driven farther, even though each car may generate less pollution than an older vehicle.

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  • NeverSurrender Dec 17, 2008

    "Trust me im not making anything close to a living doing inspections."

    ---

    That begs the question...isn't being a licenced inspector voluntary? If it's such an onerous process, one might think you'd want to concentrate on higher revenue procedures.

    I think the answer is obvious...the inspection certification brings in business that can (and often will!) be upsold on the more expensive "repairs" where the repair shop makes a killing on profit.

    You might well be on the up-and-up in your shop but how many of us have found themselves in the repair bay where the inspector is essentially trying to extort ridiculous prices to "repair" the "problems" found during the inspection.

    It's especially egregious when you put your vehicle through the exact same paces using the DMV playbook just before pulling in...and yet miraculously there are some "repairs" to be made.

    It's the same principle used by the gas station owners...they make nothing on the gas but make a killing in the c-store.

  • NeverSurrender Dec 17, 2008

    "Good advice! Jiffy Lube once broke my headlight assembly because 'it was out of adjustment.' I had to go home and fix it before they'd pass it, after I threatened to call their home office. They've also gone after my serpentine belt as well as the usual, wipers."

    ----

    Given the choice of doing a re-inspection on their own dime or coming to a reasonable price (if any) for the light bulb or wipers, every inspector except one has chosen to play ball.

    The one who didn't...I went down the street, bought two brand new wipers for less than what he wanted to charge for one, put them on, and then he had to do the $30 inspection over.

    Sometimes people just won't allow you to give them an easy out...

  • SWEET-N-SOUR Dec 17, 2008

    JUST ANOTHER WAY FOR NC TO GET MONEY FROM THE PEOPLE OF NC....NC TAXES PEOPLE TO DEATH.

  • leo-nc Dec 17, 2008

    If they want to keep the program then make it free for the people who have to go through it. Other than that, it's nothing but a another tax.

  • Alexia Dec 16, 2008

    I moved from a state that did away with the inspections years ago. They were determined to be useless and there is no relationship between accident rates and safety with or without the inspections.

    Emissions are an issue, but one can usually see the issue with rolling black smoke coming out of the tail pipe. Officers have the authority to stop a vehicle for broken lights and I would assume they have the same authority to stop a car with black smoke pouring out. If not, they should. In such instances, the person should be required to address the malfunction and then provide that documentation to the court, just as it is done for broken lights today.

    It would not be unreasonable to require car dealers to also perform these emission tests. The vast majority of cars on the road are sold by dealers, so such a requirement would mean that the vast majority of cars would be inspected at least once each time the car changes hands.

  • parkers3 Dec 16, 2008

    Best thing of all while providing a hated service to n.c consumers the dmv is constantly sending around undercover cars to try and catch you, god frobid missing something. Then comes the fines from $150.00 and up and license supension.To top it off my sation had to buy its insepction machine for approx. $8000.00. Now the entire state has gone electronic so the state(your tax money) has bought all other stations not already doing emmissions inspections computers and gave them to them. They charge the same fees, and have less investment.Must be nice to have it handed out to you.

  • IfByWhiskey-a-go-go Dec 16, 2008

    I worked at dealers for 27 years. One of life's great mysteries for me was the need to safety inspect a BRAND NEW CAR off the truck, fresh from the factory. Is that not the dumbest thing you have ever heard?

  • parkers3 Dec 16, 2008

    As a nc licsensed inspector i agree it is pretty much just a tax racket period. Suposedly if we (the state) drops the emmissions inspection then we automaticaly lose federal funds for road projects, have been told thats what happend to s.c. Yes it is a pain but look at it from my angle. As a customer/taxpayer/vehicle owner you want to pull up and get the ordeal overwith asap with no wait or issues to repair. That means i have to stop what im doing to drive your vehicle into the bay check all lights, horn, brakes, make sure all factory emmissions components are still correctly installed, tires, mirrors, belts, exhaust,even make sure you high beam indicator in the dash is working. Safety inspections are now $13.60 and emissions are still $30.00. The shop gets $12.75 on a saftey and $23.75 on an emmissions. Trust me im not making anything close to a living doing inspections.

  • usarmychic Dec 16, 2008

    Why check headlights and turn signals when people here in Fayetteville don't even use them? Sounds like a waste of time to me.

  • davidgnews Dec 16, 2008

    Avoid inspection stations that perform repair work, the inspections are a scam to give them repair work that is unnecessary.

    Good advice! Jiffy Lube once broke my headlight assembly because 'it was out of adjustment.' I had to go home and fix it before they'd pass it, after I threatened to call their home office. They've also gone after my serpentine belt as well as the usual, wipers.

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