LACONIA — Inspection requirements for motor vehicles would be eased under a bill that will go before the state House Transportation Committee on Thursday.
House Bill 1114 would eliminate the mandatory motor vehicle safety inspection for non-commercial motor vehicles in New Hampshire while preserving the annual emissions checks.
Rep. Casey Conley, D-Dover, the bill’s sponsor, said it has faced stiff opposition from the automobile repair industry and will be amended to change the safety inspection to every other year rather than eliminate it.
“I do not believe motor vehicle inspections make a meaningful difference in road safety, and I do not believe they should be mandatory,” he told the committee Tuesday.
He said 34 states do not have any safety inspections, including some in cold climates.
“Depending on the year, and the methods used, Minnesota, Washington and Ohio are typically ranked among the safest states in the U.S. for motorists. Again, no inspection in these states,” he said.
“Yet Texas, Louisiana and Virginia, all of which have a safety inspection, rank in the middle of the pack, or lower, for overall highway safety.”
He quoted a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study indicating component failures were responsible for 2 percent of all crashes, while driver behavior accounted for 94 percent of crashes studied in the report.
“The key point here is not that inspections don’t have value,” Conley said. “The point, however, is there is limited data to prove, specifically, that inspections improve safety to the point they should be mandatory. The connection is tenuous at best.
“Inspections hit lower-income residents the hardest, and operating on an expired inspection sticker is one of the most common citations issued statewide, leading to fines and other sanctions for driving a vehicle that would not cause problems in other states.”
The New Hampshire Automobile Dealers Association opposes the legislation.
The organization noted in an email that thousands of cars fail the inspection yearly, often for important safety problems with tires or brakes.
Pete McNamara, president of the association, said annual inspections are good for the traveling public.
“Despite the outstanding quality of vehicle construction, today’s cars and trucks have highly complex and technical systems that get wear and tear from daily use,” he said. “New Hampshire has some rough roads and severe winters with tough driving conditions, not to mention the impending frost heave season which is nearly upon us.
“In addition, our roads require a great deal of salt and now brine that can lead to rust and corrosion, a further threat to complicated vehicle operational and safety systems. These annual inspections are an insurance mechanism to prevent these occasionally tough conditions from generating small maintenance problems that, if unchecked, can grow into a real safety threat. This is precisely why our neighboring states have annual vehicle inspections as well.
“Whether it’s our bodies or our vehicles, regular check-ups make good sense. And we all know that preventive maintenance costs a lot less than catastrophic repair. Annual safety inspections are the best value on main street and help citizens stay safe on our roadways, save on costs, and protect the value of their second largest purchase outside of their home.”