Commentary

New vehicles may no longer need inspection

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If your car is less than 12 years old, you may be saving money in the near future.

Rep. Richard Cebra, R-Naples, has submitted a bill at the request of Gov. Paul LePage that would alter Maine’s vehicle inspection program. The bill, LD 1523, amends state law by exempting cars less than 12 years old from annual inspections.

Maine’s first vehicle inspection laws were enacted 87 years ago and have done little to improve safety or provide tangible public benefits. Six major studies have been conducted on motor vehicle inspection programs since 1990, and none of them found statistically significant reductions in crash rates, fatalities or injuries between states with and without inspection programs. In fact, Maine is one of just 16 states in the country to have a vehicle inspection program.

This is because there is great incentive as a car owner to keep your vehicle in good mechanical condition. Vehicles are beacons of opportunity for those in rural areas without access to public transportation, or most of Maine. For those who are personally responsible and want to make it to work on time, keeping a car in safe, working condition is a top priority. It’s wrong to assume drivers would not take care of their vehicles without the government mandating an annual inspection.

Because of this incentive, inspection laws are unnecessary. Why should one be forced to get their brand new vehicle inspected? If someone is responsible and conducts regular maintenance on their vehicle, why must they bring it to a garage and spend money each year for a meaningless inspection?

One issue regarding inspections is their reliability. A study done to assess Pennsylvania’s periodic inspection program found that inspections are not that reliable. The researchers conducted an experiment where a 1969 Chevrolet Bel-Air was brought to various garages with 13 defects intentionally created to evaluate the detection rate of real defects and nonexistent ones. In the study, the highest rate of detection for real defects was 54 percent and the average was about 37 percent. Additionally, inspection agents found, on average, 5 of 13 real defects but also “found” 2 nonexistent defects.

Not only does this show unreliability, it makes you question if you really trust your mechanic.

Critics of the Governor’s bill and similar legislation considered this session, like LD’s 623 and 787, claim that inspections are a necessity in Maine because of our harsh winters and the salt we use on our roads. However, Connecticut, Minnesota and North Dakota, which all receive up to 50 inches of snow annually, have repealed their motor vehicle inspection laws entirely. Additionally, Rhode Island has transitioned to a biannual inspection program.

The Maine people do not need annual vehicle inspections, as they would take proper care of their vehicles regardless of whether the state has an inspection program in place. Maine is part of a dwindling minority that has inspection laws in place. The Governor’s bill is a reasonable compromise to ease the burden on taxpayers while still keeping a vehicle inspection program for older vehicles more likely to need annual service.

Email the members of the Committee on Transportation and urge them to support the Governor’s bill, LD 1523. A list of committee members, with contact information, is available here.

About Jacob Posik

Jacob Posik, of Turner, is a policy analyst for the Maine Heritage Policy Center. He can be reached at jposik@mainepolicy.org.

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