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Report: Exempt inspections on newer model autos

Posted December 17, 2008

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— No more vehicle inspections. It's music to the ears for some owners and one idea from a new legislative report.

But with the Department of Transportation already struggling for money, is eliminating emissions and safety inspections on newer-model vehicles good business for the state?

In a report to the General Assembly released Tuesday, the legislature's Program Evaluation Division recommends exempting vehicles that are 3 years old or less from both inspections.

Annually, state motorists spend approximately $141 million on safety and emissions inspections. Of that, nearly $41 million goes to administer the program.

In North Carolina, the two inspections together cost approximately $30, with $6.25 from each car going to the state. The inspecting station keeps the rest. Of the state's portion, $5.40 goes to administer the program. Thirty cents goes to various scholarships and grants for EMS squads.

The remaining 55 cents goes to the state's Highway Fund, which funds road maintenance and transportation programs. Last fiscal year, it generated $4.3 million in revenue.

If newer model vehicles are exempted, officials estimate the state could lose more than $800,000.

But Brian Bozard, a supervisor with the state Division of Motor Vehicles, says that is not why the DMV opposes the idea.

"It's really a consumer protection issue, the way we see it," Bozard said. "The first time the consumer would go in to get the vehicle inspected, the vehicle would be 4 years old. The warranty would have expired and (that would) shift the burden from the manufacturer to the consumer (for any needed repairs)."

The Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee has directed its staff to draft legislation changing the inspection program. It could be introduced during the next legislative session that opens Jan. 28.

The Program Evaluation Division also suggests eliminating the safety inspection program for all cars, saying it is not effective and is an inefficient use of funding.

Nearly three decades of research has failed to conclusively show that mechanical defects are a significant cause of accidents, the report states, and North Carolina crash data indicates 1 percent of all crashes statewide were in part because of a mechanical condition.

Still, Tommy Horton, owner of Mission Valley Service Center in Raleigh, disagrees.

"Definitely, I would think it would save lives," Horton said. "If you have bad tires, you shouldn't be on the highway."

Motorist Jay Morgan believes that with older vehicles, safer is better.

"I know a lot of people, if they're like me, they procrastinate things, and you really shouldn't do that when it comes to certain things on a vehicle," Morgan said.

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