Do motor vehicle safety inspections make a difference when it comes to roadway safety? Many Utah legislators have accepted the argument that they do not. A bill which eliminates the requirement that motor vehicles complete safety inspections was just signed into law by the governor. As part of a legislative compromise, failure to wear a seat belt is now a permanent primary offense in the state.

Effectiveness in Doubt

Among the arguments made by supporters of the bill were that only sixteen states have safety inspection requirements on the books and that an August 2015 federal report showed that crash rates were essentially the same in states requiring safety inspections and those not requiring them. Opponents, including one representative who is also a state trooper, argued that inspections play a vital role in keeping unsafe vehicles off the state’s roads and that this in turn prevents injury and saves lives.

While the bill’s supporters repeatedly referred to the report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) as showing that inspections made no difference, what the report actually said was different. It stated that these inspections “enhance vehicle safety.” However, for numerous reasons, including different inspection methods, varying enforcement standards, and incomplete cost tracking across the states, the GAO was unable to provide a cost-benefit analysis for safety inspections. The only actual recommendation from the report was that the federal Department of Transportation work to increase communication and information sharing to improve state safety inspection programs.

A Small Number Isn’t Zero

The GAO report noted that between 2 and 7 percent of all vehicle crashes are related to mechanical failure, which is reduced when safety inspections are conducted. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration performed a separate analysis of crash data earlier in 2015 and found that roughly 2 percent of crashes were directly attributable to a mechanical failure, with problems with wheels, tires, and brakes at the top of the list.

It’s difficult to translate these numbers to injury and fatality crashes because this analysis used a sample of data from multiple years. But if the numbers correspond directly, then it’s likely that nationwide as many as 700 lives are lost each year due to problems safety inspections would catch.

Local Risk Revealed

Federal statistics aside, safety concerns strike close to home. An investigation just last month by KSL TV found that nearly one in five taxis—and nearly one in four Uber and Lyft vehicles—had open recalls, all of which were safety-related and known either to increase the risk of a crash or to increase the risk of injury in a crash.

Knowing that these vehicle operators are taking safety less seriously, the report asked “Would you still get in that car?” If those who make their living driving others haven’t completed these important recalls, it’s easy to wonder what kind of diligence our neighbors and the other drivers we pass every day have shown.

Trucks, Buses Still Inspected

The new law will only affect non-commercial vehicles, so trucks and buses will still have mandatory safety reviews. However, we’re not sure we should have high confidence in those systems. A separate investigation last year revealed that most buses in Utah don’t get the twice-yearly required inspection, and around 12 percent of buses are “self-inspected” by their operators.

There’s an ironic symmetry to the fact that 12 percent of inspected buses fail so badly that they are immediately pulled from service until the problems can be corrected (although how much overlap there is between self-inspected buses and inspection failures isn’t actually known). Trucks and other commercial vehicles will continue to follow the existing safety inspection rules after the new law goes into effect.

Utah Auto Accident Lawyer

Car crashes happen for many reasons. The vast majority, at least 94 percent, are the result of unsafe behaviors or poor decisions made by drivers. But unsafe vehicles account for a small fraction of crashes. When you’ve been the victim of a crash, you aren’t really concerned with what caused it. You’re more interested in recovering from your injuries or having your damaged property replaced. Having the right car crash attorney on your side helps.

At Craig Swapp & Associates, we understand the ins and outs of automobile accident law and have many years of experience in this area. Give us a call today at 1-800-404-9000 or reach us online through the form below to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case. You can also launch the LiveChat feature from any page of this website for quick answers to some of your questions.

Written By: Ryan Swapp     Legal Review By: Craig Swapp