Perspectives: Smaller government would be better; Utah safety inspection law

Image by rozkmina / iStock / Getty Images Plus, St. George News

OPINION – The promise of the coming new year puts some of us in an optimistic mood. It’s not that 2016 was necessarily a bad year, it’s the idea that there is promise for improvement in 2017 – for example, if legislators in Utah would revisit the vehicle safety inspection law.

While much of people’s anticipated improvement in 2017 may be of a personal nature, there is one collective shift I’d gladly welcome. That would be any move whatsoever that, in some way, shrinks the power and costs of government in each of our lives.

While such a sentiment is anathema to anyone who believes that greater personal freedom is too frightening and unpredictable for modern society, it would be deeply appreciated by the rest of us.

We should start as close to home as possible.

For instance, Libertas Institute recently released a policy brief that calls for the repeal of Utah’s state-mandated safety inspections for vehicles. These inspections are sold to the citizenry in the name of “public safety” but, in reality, their costs outweigh the claimed benefits.

This means that, however well-intended the policy may be, it ends up wasting Utah drivers’ time and money.

Proponents of safety inspections may raise the fearful prospect of uninspected vehicles traveling on our state’s roads, presumably putting everyone in greater danger. This conveniently ignores the fact that many of the vehicles on our roads, at any given moment, are from out of state and are not subject to our safety inspection.

The fact that Utah is the only state among the 15 Western states that still requires a periodic vehicle safety inspection makes this possibility even more likely. (See ed. note below.)

There is the added likelihood that a nonmechanically-skilled driver whose car passes the yearly required safety inspection is more likely to develop a false sense of security and, therefore, pay less attention to the mechanical soundness of his or her vehicle.

By eliminating a bureaucratic program that can show no evidence of fulfilling the stated reason for its purpose, Utah could take a small step back towards restoring personal freedom.

Utah citizens pride themselves on being patriotic, civic-minded and living in what they call a “well-run state.” However, each of those qualities has gradually superseded another quality that is growing more scarce by the moment.

That would be the quality of liberty — the ability to make as many of our own choices as possible, without being coerced. This attitude of live and let live was once the norm. Now, civic duty has become an indirect means of wielding weaponized political power over others.

This is not to suggest that we live in abject tyranny in our respective communities but we certainly don’t have the kind of freedom we once enjoyed even a few years ago. Too many people have allowed others to bind them down with regulations, taxes, licenses and permits in the name of some collective “greater good.”

Because this is the system we are raised in and trained to believe in, few people are willing to see it for what it is. We are being ruled by morally defective people who extort money from us under the threat of force.

Paul Rosenberg minces no words in his assessment of the system as it currently stands:

Everywhere I turn, some kind of ruler, sub-ruler, enforcer, regulator, or “right-thinking” quasi-enforcer demands not only my money but also for me to make myself easy to punish, thus showing myself to be a good subservient. That’s not just wrong; it’s a disease.

When it’s stated in those terms, the present system becomes a lot less worthy of defense.

It’s no exaggeration to note that, these days, government permission is required to do almost everything. If you wish to travel by car, start a business, renovate your private property, educate your own kids, buy things online, live off the grid or collect rainwater off your roof, you must either obtain permission or pay some type of tax in the form of a fee.

It would be one thing if all that regulation and licensing resulted in greater safety, higher quality goods and services and a clean and ordered society. After all, these are the criteria under which most of these government controls are sold to a gullible public.

At some point, however, even the most obtuse will have a hard time defending a system that would charge people criminally for growing vegetables rather than lawn on their own property. Or would prohibit feeding the homeless or poor. Or would try to put out of business a cottage industry that makes hand-sewn menstrual cloths by having the FDA declare them to be “medical devices”.

It’s not that difficult to see that the majority of these regulations, permits and fees are predicated upon a desire to control others. The proof in the pudding is found in other states and communities where happy, productive lives are lived in the absence of such micromanagement.

That would be a positive step in the right direction.

Ed. note: Vehicle safety inspection requirements vary from state-to-state. State and federal laws prescribe various inspections for vehicles over a certain weight and commercial vehicles. Other events such as sale, resale, registering a car in a state for the first time and the like trigger inspection requirements in some states. Law enforcement officers are typically empowered to require safety inspections on a case-by-case basis in their judgment. For summary of laws pertaining to vehicle safety inspections by state, see AAA Digest of Motor Laws webpage on safety inspections.

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator, radio host and opinion columnist in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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20 Comments

  • tcrider December 26, 2016 at 9:54 am

    excellent point Bryan,

    I never knew that the other states did not require safety inspections.
    on the other hand I have seen in the past how some of the locals try and save
    money in different ways, and I could see local drivers waiting until their rotors on
    their brakes totally fail and would not care what happens to the other drivers of an
    accident and they would call it an act of God. I would call it local mentality.

  • Sapphire December 26, 2016 at 10:08 am

    Seriously? Complaining about the tyranny of a $15 safety fee semi-annually? (17 other states do this). I can’t stop laughing. No one has any idea how many lives are saved by making people fix their brakes, emissions, or even broken signals/horns. People are lazy by nature and often will postpone the necessary. Freedom only extends to oneself. It ends when it affects another person. A car is a convenience to the owner but a weapon to those around it. A civilized society must have law and order. If people were prone to behave in a responsible, safe, knowledgeable, and considerate way, then we wouldn’t need any laws at all. But that is not the nature of people. I personally have no problem with the $15 fee… sure is a lot cheaper than if I had to take my car in and pay a mechanic at $60-$75 an hour to check things.

    • comments December 26, 2016 at 12:58 pm

      It isn’t semi-annually. You don’t even know what ur on about.

      • Sapphire December 26, 2016 at 6:04 pm

        Dear rude comments, I meant every other year and that is what is required for our vehicles.

  • comments December 26, 2016 at 11:50 am

    What gets me is how many of the local businesses use the inspection as a way to upsell and gouge customers for things they may not actually need, and in the case of businesses like BIG O TIRES fraudulently claim you have mechanical problems which you do not and try to sell fraudulent repairs, and in one story I heard about they actually went in and purposely vandalized mechanical components in order to sell fraudulent repairs. It’s actually a total conflict of interest to have places that sell auto work doing the inspection in the first place, and I don’t think the auto mechanic lobby in UT would let the law go without a hard fight.

    • .... December 26, 2016 at 3:11 pm

      LOL at comments. you heard about how they do stuff. really ? Well if your going to make an accusation why don’t you back it up and prove it. or is that just another one of your conspiracy theories ?

      • comments December 26, 2016 at 8:55 pm

        One time it was on my frickin car you mindless dimwit. The other time was a friends experience. I caught them trying to take my car out of alignment so they could sell me one. They broke my hood release. They tried to sell me wheel bearings I didn’t need. I don’t need to back anything up. Golly, you are dumb. haha

  • Billy Madison December 26, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    Sapphire has it partially correct, the $15 amount is not very much to pay. And, I agree that people tend to be lazy. What I disagree with is the underlying costs that come with getting that inspection. Unscrupulous inspectors, and there are an awful lot of them, will usually “find” something that needs to be fixed whether or not it actually does, and then pressure you to pay them for that repair. With the current inspection system, they can lock you into their particular inspection station and you can’t go elsewhere for an inspection. UN-necessary repairs amounts to extortion. The law needs to be either eliminated or modified to be more user friendly.

    • Sapphire December 26, 2016 at 6:07 pm

      I take our cars to a mechanic I can trust… and that is not places like Big O.

      • comments December 26, 2016 at 8:59 pm

        Good for you, but I suppose there is a never ending stream of new people that have to learn the hard way. Probably that’s how BIG O TIRE stays in business.

  • 42214 December 26, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    Good points made about safety inspections. It’s all about government’s role in public safety and where to draw the line. How about health inspections of restaurants, building inspections etc. I don’t trust everyone to do the right thing and be socially responsible when there is a profit incentive not to. I don’t have a solution, just pointing out both sides have an argument. Libertarianism is great if you’re willing to live with the consequences. It’s been my experience that the one who wants the most freedom from government intrusion is the first and loudest to cry when they’re burned by it.

  • comments December 26, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    Remove the conflict of interest of having auto repairers do the inspection, lower the price to $10 (since it takes only 3-5 min to do the insp), make it required only every 2 years for all vehicles, require large trailers to get insp, and it would be a much better law, and I’d probly be in favor of it. I’ve dealt with too many crooked auto shops in this area just using it to lure in business

    just a tip: try to avoid the places that offer discounts or coupons on the insp. I’ve found most of these places use it as a lure and will try to upsell and “dig around” for repairs that aren’t actually needed. Yes, basically fraud.

    • .... December 26, 2016 at 3:17 pm

      Fraud ? oh you mean like you making an accusation towards the practices of businesses based on absolutely no proof and hearsay ? talk about fraud !

  • JJODL December 26, 2016 at 8:26 pm

    The safety inspection is only required for vehicles: 4, 8 and 10 years old. Then after that it is every year. (http://www.dmv.utah.gov/register/inspections) That seems reasonable to me as older vehicles are more likely to have equipment failures. As both of my vehicles are over 10 year old I have an inspection every year. As stated by one of the previous commenters, I thought the $15 fee was a bargain for what would cost me several times as much if not for the inspection requirement. I remember a study done several years ago by automotive insurer’s that showed insurance rates higher in states without a safety inspection program. That would make me think that safety inspections do create a safer driving environment.

  • Tom December 26, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    Automobile experts across the country say more reliable cars and other safety improvements have rendered the inspections obsolete. The District of Columbia recently disbanded its inspection program because of high costs and a lack of evidence that the inspections saved lives.

    let’s abolish Utah’s Vehicle safety inspections, regular safety inspections may have made sense decades ago when cars were far less reliable. Back in the 1970s we had settled in another state, that had a state vehicle inspection process, the inspection process was stopped over 20 years ago. We did not observed any increase in the number of decrepit vehicles on the road or accidents due to mechanical failure. The Utah inspection station (inspector) we dealt with, told us that the Utah State Vehicle Inspections were a waste of time and money for everyone involved. He said he has been in the vehicle repair business for over 20 years, has lived in a state that did not require a vehicle safety inspections and now in Utah, and that he did not see any difference in the vehicles that came through his garage. The Inspector said that most cars pass without problems, the ones that do not, either cannot afford to fix the vehicle or find a way around the inspection. The only thing we see being accomplished with these inspections is wasting the vehicle owners time and the headaches from dealing with the process, some inspectors are Good to very good but there are some that are not so good and we as vehicle owners still have to deal with them. Let’s help Utah put an end to the Vehicle Inspection process, to end the cost and headaches the citizens of Utah have to bear. Utah can allocate the money and resources they would save by abolishing the inspection process on areas that really need it.

  • Tom December 26, 2016 at 10:08 pm

    Maybe the funds/employees the State uses on Inspections could be directed to Law Enforcement to help curtail the Speeders, People that Tailgate, the Ones that run Red Lights/Stop Signs, but that is a different issue, just read the St George News, it goes on every day. We also found this:

    Are Vehicle Inspections Really About Safety?
    July 18, 2016
    News

    The world of automotive regulations is quite complicated. For instance, each state makes and maintains its own regulations for auto insurance, license requirements, and vehicle requirements, but not every rule directly translates to improved safety for drivers. Take vehicle inspections — they’re intended to keep drivers, passengers, roads, and the environment safe. So why do just some states legally require them, and do they actually make us safer?

    State Inspections by the Numbers

    The following states require a periodic inspection by a licensed inspection station: Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia, plus Washington, DC. Alabama and Maryland only require an inspection when a vehicle is sold.

    We compared insurance rates in these states to the national average and found that requiring an inspection doesn’t lead to lower insurance rates. From the above list, 10 states have an average insurance rate that is more than $100 below the national average, eight have an average insurance rate that is more than $100 above the average insurance rate, and four have one that is within $100 of the national average.

    We also looked at deaths from crashes in states requiring inspections. Each state reports how many deaths from fatal motor vehicle crashes it has each year, so we compared how many states had fewer than the national median of 10.2 deaths per 100,000 people each year and how many states had more than the median number of deaths (as reported by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety). In 2014 (the last year for which data was available), of the states requiring vehicle safety inspections, 12 states plus the District of Columbia had fewer than the national median of crash deaths and seven had more deaths than the national average.

    So, there isn’t a clear-cut correlation here between requiring a safety inspection and fewer deaths or lower insurance rates.

  • UtahPatriot December 27, 2016 at 7:55 am

    These inspections are a joke. They look at your windshield washers? Really? Last month when I got my truck inspected, the guy whined about my wipers not doing a very good job. They look at your high-beams. Really? High-beams! I understand the brake lights and turn signals. That’s all they inspected. Never once did the guy look under my hood at anything, nor did he look under the truck. Not a glance at my brake pads, steering knuckles, ball joints – nothing! Windshield washing system and lights. Oh yea, I almost forgot – he made me beep the horn. I feel so much better knowing that my windshield washer and horn works. I can now drive with confidence.

    And, about the bi-annual inspection schedule – this is the second year in a row I had to have it inspected and it passed with flying colors last year.

    If you really want to get into Nanny-State sponsored Crony-Capitalism, look at this insurance scam the state perpetrates. They pay a private company called “Insure-Rite” to verify insurance coverage for Utah drivers. That company is (or at least was) located in Las Vegas, run by a guy who seems to have modeled his company after the phone-rooms down there. With help from some corrupt Utah politician, he now makes millions by doing simple database queries that the Utah government, in all its wisdom, can’t seem to figure out. A 10th grader could do it as a computer-science project.

    • comments December 27, 2016 at 12:25 pm

      Utah is pretty backwards in many many ways. Always has been.

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