Texas legislators have approved a bill to eliminate annual vehicle safety inspections, meaning automobile registration renewals would never again be contingent on the state of a motorist’s windshield wipers or fuel cap.
The Texas Senate passed HB 3297, authored by state Rep. Cody Harris, R-Palestine, on Sunday. The bill just needs Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature to eliminate the safety inspection for non-commercial vehicles in Texas.
To offset any blow to state finances, the proposal replaces the $7.50 state inspection fee with a fee paid with the vehicle’s registration. Drivers would save the $7 cut that inspection stations pocketed.
The new law would take effect Sept. 1, ushering in the biggest change to vehicle registration since state officials linked registration and annual inspections to a single sticker placed on the windshields of Texas cars and trucks in 2015. The state has 22 million registered vehicles.
Nixing the safety check, however, does not end emission testing, which is required for all vehicles in 17 counties, including most of the Houston and Dallas metro areas, Austin and El Paso. Nearly 17 million people, more than half of the state’s population, live in those counties.
Mechanics and others opposed eliminating of the inspections, saying it would lead to potentially dangerous situations on Texas roadways when more cars do not receive a proper once-over and even more pollution from poorly maintained vehicles.
“If (the bill) passes, we will see an escalation of vehicles on our roadways that cannot pass a basic safety inspection,” Cpl. Mike Bradburn, of the Travis County Constable Precinct Three Clean Air Task Force, told lawmakers when HB 3297 received a public hearing on April 11. “If a vehicle cannot pass a basic safety inspection, it would be reasonable to believe it would not pass an emissions test leading to more pollutants in the air.”
Studies of states that have stopped safety checks on vehicles, however, show little impact on overall roadway safety. After federal rules allowed states to lift the inspections in the 1970s, most stopped doing in-person examinations, preferring that police to use their discretion to assess a vehicle during a traffic stop if they suspected a problem. Only 13 states still conduct annual inspections.
I blogged about the efficacy of vehicle safety inspections way back in 2009. If there’s really no demonstrable value in doing them then I’m okay with eliminating them. Emissions testing is a different matter, and while those would continue for most Texas vehicles, it’s not clear to me how that would be enforced. I doubt we do anything to track emissions data and how many vehicles that are (or would be if anyone caught them) in violation are out there on the road, but if we did it sure would be nice to see if that number creeps up over the next few years.