Sounding an alarm about
annual car inspections
In his recent column supporting annual vehicle inspections in Virginia, Leete Tire & Auto owner Jerry Tatum is certainly entitled to his opinion, but consider the history and the facts.
State inspections in Virginia were initiated in 1933, in an era when vehicles lacked the design quality and overall dependability of what we drive today. We also would assume that the goal of annual inspections is to improve highway safety, not to generate business for auto repair shops. But a 2015 study by the Government Accountability Office concluded that existing research nationwide showed no clear influence of state inspection programs on crash rates related to vehicle component failure.
In North Carolina, a 30-year study failed to show that mechanical defects are a significant cause of accidents or that safety inspections reduce accident rates. North Carolina still requires yearly inspections — go figure.
Insurance companies have all of the information, and if inspections resulted in lower accident claims, one would expect reduced rates in the "inspection states," which are a minority of fewer than 20. That is not the case, as rates tend to be a bit lower in states without required inspections.
Additionally, even if inspections were able to uncover all potentially dangerous mechanical defects, it would have little overall effect on crash rates. As few as 2% of accidents today relate to mechanical failure, according to federal data, while roughly 94% are caused by driver error.
Virginia should only have an interest in continuing car inspections if they reduce accidents with potential for personal and financial injury. This is just not the case. Gov. Ralph Northam had it right when he tried to eliminate this unnecessary expense and inconvenience for Virginians.