March 10, 2017 Print

Many states require mandatory vehicle safety inspections, and that adds up to a hefty pricetag for drivers, but the Libertas Institute, an Atlas Network partner based in Utah, points out that there is no conclusive evidence that such inspections actually contribute to safer vehicles. After Libertas published a policy brief in December, titled “Vehicle Safety Inspections: Another Wasteful Government Program,” the Utah legislature introduced H.B. 265 to repeal the state’s vehicle safety inspection program, giving the legislation its final passage on March 9.

“Comprehensive studies show that there is no link between mandatory inspections and a reduction in vehicle failures or fatalities, so in absence of that justification, the program should not exist,” Libertas explains. “And now it won’t, once the governor signs it, which we’re told he will.”

The primary problem with mandatory vehicle inspection, the Libertas Institute’s policy brief shows, is that there is no clear evidence that mechanical failures are a major contributing factor in car accidents, or that inspection centers accurately diagnose errors or effectively repair vehicles — there is no oversight or auditing for vehicle safety inspection stations. Drivers may also adopt riskier habits on the road after being given a stamp of illusory safety, a behavioral phenomenon known as the “Peltzman Effect.”

Ultimately, any unclear benefits of mandatory inspections do not outweigh the very real costs to Utahns — $25 million in expenses, not to mention the vast opportunity cost of requiring 2 million Utah drivers to jump through unnecessary bureaucratic hoops.

“Policy makers should consider whether it is appropriate to exhaust so much time and money on a program that has a minimal impact—if it has one at all,” the Libertas policy brief explains. “Instead, the state should focus on proven methods worthy of taxpayer time and money, such as increased public education about safe driving habits and enforcement against vehicles that are specifically believed to be unsafe.”

Utah’s H.B. 265 was sponsored by Utah state Rep. Dan McCay, who has received high ratings in recent years from the Libertas Institute in terms of “how consistently this legislator votes in support of individual liberty, private property, and free enterprise.” Fifteen other states and the District of Columbia still require mandatory vehicle inspections.

“Past attempts to limit this program has seen hoardes of Jiffy Lube mechanics coming to the Capitol in opposition—a clear sign, in our view, that this program serves no valid public purpose, but does serve a private purpose, helping an industry acquire guaranteed customers,” the Libertas Institute concludes.