Local News

Report: State should re-evaluate safety inspection program

Posted December 16, 2008 3:59 p.m. EST
Updated December 16, 2008 5:32 p.m. EST

— 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.