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Texas Might Ditch Its Mandatory Vehicle Safety Inspection After 67 Years

Photo credit: David Tracy/Jalopnik
Photo credit: David Tracy/Jalopnik

The Texas senate just voted to get rid of the state’s mandatory vehicle safety inspection, The Houston Chronicle reports. This means all noble Texans should get ready to head to a scrapyard, buy whatever clapped out piece of crap their heart has been yearning for all these years, and enjoy the open road. The shoulder of the open road, if we’re honest.

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The newspaper says the Senate voted 27-4 to approve Senate Bill 1588, which calls for the removal of a 67 year-old statewide policy mandating vehicle safety inspections for personal vehicles.

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State Senator Don Huffines told the Houston Chronicle that it all comes down to saving taxpayers money—$130 million to be exact. That’s how much he says Texans are paying annually for what Huffines calls “a procedure that has proven to have no discernible safety benefit to drivers.”

He took it even further than that, going on to criticize the policy, declaring: “I look at this as an unnecessary procedure that should be eliminated.”

Of course, despite the slew of votes in support of the Bill, not everyone was thrilled that the road may soon be filled with crap-cans. Senator Eddie Lucio went so far as to say he’s “going to have trouble sleeping knowing that there will be thousands of dangerous vehicles on the road.”

The Bill, which still has to go through the House before it could go into effect in March of 2018, applies only to personal vehicles. Commercial vehicles would still be subject to annual safety inspections, and smog testing would continue in 17 counties.

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I myself have written that all states should have mandatory, but very simplified, safety inspections. My main point there was that there are a handful of parts failures that I consider “silent killers,” namely rusty brake lines, bad ball joints, and worn tie-rod ends. These three critical components can go bad without obvious warning signs, leading to sudden and unexpected accidents.

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Inspecting those few things doesn’t have to take any more than three or four minutes, and can prevent potentially devastating accidents.

That said, failure of these components is hugely accelerated by corrosion, something that Texas doesn’t really have to deal with. So my stance on mandatory vehicle inspections in dry states is much softer than it is for places like Michigan. Up here, we should definitely have (simplified) safety inspections.

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But maybe the Yugo should move down there.

Sr. Technical Editor, Jalopnik. Always interested in hearing from auto engineers—email me. Cars: Willys CJ-2A ('48), Jeep J10 ('85), Jeep Cherokee ('79, '91, '92, '00), Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd ('94).

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DISCUSSION

I don’t believe that mandatory safety inspections make the roads that much safer.

People who take care of their cars will continue to do so, people who don’t will continue to avoid doing so (and quickly learn that paying for a tow truck and a ticket is more expensive than a repair).

Even the “Silent Killers” mentioned aren’t necessarily killers. Rusted brake lines only affect one of the two hydraulic circuits, so brakes should still work. Tie rods are more likely to separate in a parking lot than on the highway (takes more force to turn a wheel at low speeds), and ball joints well, they probably would only kill you if you’re on a highway next to a cliff.

I’d say to spend some of that $130 million towards driver training. Teach people how to pay attention, train them in proper responses, and give them an idea of how dangerous some mechanical failures could be.