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State Safety Inspection Programs: Useful or not?

I was a state licensed vehicle safety inspector here in OK until the state (thankfully) abolished this worthless program. It’s sole purpose was to put money into the state troopers retirement fund.

According to the state a proper inspection should take 1 hour and 15 minutes and performed on the rack. Out of the 5 dollar charge the mechanic got 2. Think a mechanic is going to give one iota about an inspection when they’re not only getting 2 bucks but losing money on the jobs they should be working on.

When OK decided to recertify years ago I was sent kicking and screaming to be recertified. I made up my mind I was going to fail the test. I intentionally answered 70% of them incorrectly.
What did it get me? They passed me anyway. After that I pencil whipped them. I’d drive the car into the shop, hit the horn/wipers/lights, take a quick look, and pass them. The state was asking questions as to why their surveys showed 15% of vehicles should fail and yet our shop never had one rejection slip written.

Someone finally realized the program was worthless and ended it. To avoid losing the money into the trooper retirement fund they just added more to the fines for traffic violations.


I would not mind safety inspections in Oregon every 2 years when the registration was due. I also see many non functional brake and headlights plus very heavy exhaust smoke and severely cracked windshields. All these are illegal but must be very low priority for law enforcement. I had a brake light switch recall on my Kia. I placed a piece of white tape on the inside of the rear window slightly above the third brake light so I could check function in the rear view mirror for the week I had to wait on the dealer. I see some vehicles on the road that I am not sure a scrapyard would accept.

Back when we had inspections in MS, they were pretty minimal. All I remember them checking was the windshield for cracks, headlights, brake lights, and turn signals. Fairly pointless, as law enforcement can check all of those items besides the windshield as you are driving. I think suspension and steering component checks would be useful, if done honestly. I (or law officers) might be unaware that I’m about to lose steering control due to faulty tie rods, ball joints, etc. But the function of my lights is fairly obvious. So, I don’t miss the pointless inspections now that they’ve done away with them.

Forgot to add, I did receive a ticket twice for an out of date inspection sticker. Very easy thing to forget.

I once failed inspection for a crack in the windshield. But another shop passed me. “That crack happened after the inspection, right?” Yeah it did :grin:

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When OK had a safety inspection program the manual had 2 fine print pages on just how to check a windshield crack. No one on the planet could understand it.

When the trooper came around after recertification and gave his little speech he asked if anyone had any questions. I raised my hand and my question was “I don’t understand a single word of what is written about windshield cracks and exactly how this is supposed to be measured. Do you?”.

He was silent for a full 10 seconds then smiled and said “I don’t either”.

In VA (at least the part I live in), there are mandatory annual safety inspections. The check the windshield for cracks , suspension, brakes, lights, steering, and make sure the vehicle is structurally sound. There’s no emissions testing, the exhaust pipe(s) have to exit behind the passenger cabin, but the few cars with factory sidepipes (Viper, Corvette, etc.) seem to be fine. The law also states that you need a muffler of some kind and specifically says that chambered exhausts are not legal, but there are a number of trucks running around with straight pipes (after the cat(s)), but nobody really seems to care.

In NOVA (NOrthern VA) where I live they require emission inspections every 2 years
You seem to live in ROVA (Rest Of VA) :slightly_smiling_face:

State-mandated safety inspections is something like $16 for safety inspection, then in NOVA it is a $28 for emissions. Tests are executed by the participating private shops.

Back in early 2000s, they used to stick the actual probe into the tailpipe, now they are allowed to stick OBD2 reader and read OBD monitors, so nobody messes with the actual probes anymore.

I would say the safety inspection program is quite good: they failed me on improperly DIY-installed brake hose once, then once they said “you are 20% before illegal to drive” on brake pads thickness, prompting me to address it before it was becoming a concern, they made me to redo the aftermarket fog-lights which were wired to turn on with headlights, but were not turned off with high beams.

I would say, I do not regret $16 spent on this.
Ah, and if you failed, they give you a pink sticker, legal to drive for 15 days and you pay $1 to re-test after your corrections.
Sure enough, the private shop will be happy to get them do the work, which probably is what happens in 90+% of cases, but DIY route is also quite easy to tackle.

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There are no formal safety inspections in MD. There are informal safety inspections, though. I had a light out and a state cop stopped me. I asked about it, and he said the state police were required by the state legislature to do this instead of instituting formal safety inspections. There isn’t much the staties can see from a few car lengths behind you except the lights. I’d say it’s working, but I still see a lot of vehicles with more than one light out. The other day I saw someone with one headlight and all the rear lights were out. Surely at least one state cop must have seen this guy but decided to pass on it.

Wouldn’t that be pretty easy determine? Doesn’t seem there would need to be any disagreement between the car owner and the inspector on that. Apply some soapy water to the suspected leak. Bubbles, yes, a leak. No bubbles, no leak.

@Bing writes

“When I was a kid, they used to set up safety check stations and they’d flag you over to get checked. Things like lights, tires, etc”

That’s an example of why I’m glad Calif doesn’t do safety inspections. I feel certain they’d use that as yet another reason to set up road-blocks. Calif politicians seem hell-bent on preventing its residents – citizens who are perfectly innocent, and for which there is no reason to believe otherwise – from just getting where they are going and otherwise doing their daily business. I presume these road blocks are a big money-maker b/c they find registration & insurance problems, expired driver licenses, folks who have warrants on them for missing jury duty, etc, and get to issue citations and get the revenue from the fines.