07-13 Inspection Sticker

Greg Parker, a mechanic at Bayside Auto Service in Laconia, places an inspection sticker on a customer's car. He said the new location for the stickers can be problematic because many of his customers already have stickers in that location. (Adam Drapcho/The Laconia Daily Sun)

The state’s new vehicle inspection stickers began gracing windshields in October of last year in a new place. They have a different appearance, yet despite these changes the transition has occurred with minimal complaints. That is, except from drivers who didn’t know about the change when they brought their car in for the yearly check-up.

“When they first came out, customers would call and say we forgot to put their new sticker on,” said Scott Sanborn at Sanborn’s Auto Repair. Those customers were looking for the stickers where they had always been in New Hampshire – right below the rearview mirror.

The change in placement of the stickers was necessitated by the development of driver-aiding technologies, which often place sensors on the windshield near the rearview mirror. With new cars crowding that space with crash-avoiding devices, the stickers are now being placed in the lower, driver-side corner of the windshield.

They’re in a different place, and they look different, too. The sticker’s center –  where the month and year are displayed – aren’t part of sticker at all. The center, black text on a white background, is printed by the inspection agent as part of the report created for each vehicle. The mechanic places that square of paper on the sticker, then presses it to the inside of the windshield.

It works out fine, said Greg Parker, a mechanic at Bayside Auto Service, except that many of his customers have been in the habit of putting other stickers, such as municipal facility use permits, in the same place. If that’s the case, he’s supposed to carefully peel off those stickers and move them.

“We’ve had to move a lot of stickers over to the other side,” said Parker, who preferred the stickers tucked behind the mirror. “Personally, I liked the fact that, behind the mirror, it didn’t block your view out the car windshield. But I understand why it is being done.”

Police officers, too, have had minor complaints. Deputy Chief Kris Kelley, in Gilford, has heard such from his patrol officers.

“I’ve heard some grumblings that they’re harder to see,” said Kelley. Officers had trained their eyes to glance at the registration sticker on license plates and then to the rearview mirror mount of passing cars. Now those officers are undoing years of conditioning – and it can be harder to spot the stickers in the corner of the windshield, especially if there are other stickers clustered around it.

While making the change of location, the Department of Motor Vehicles redesigned the sticker to make them harder to counterfeit. Kelley said that with the older style of sticker – a solid color paper with a black numeral indicating the month its inspection was due – it was surprisingly common for police to spot funny-looking inspection stickers.

“(It was) common to have a fake inspection sticker, because it was somewhat easy,” Kelley said. “People are pretty crafty about that… I would suggest with this new inspection sticker, we’re less likely to see that.”

Unscrupulous drivers would have to be exceptionally crafty to concoct a counterfeit sticker now. The new stickers incorporate a barcode as well as a hologram. They are also made to be difficult to remove without tearing them, so that they will be less likely to be stolen once placed on a windshield.

“I would agree with that – they are less likely to be tampered with or stolen,” Kelley said.

Lawrence Crowe, a spokesperson for the DMV, said it’s normal to hear complaints and concerns whenever a change is made. With the new sticker and placement, this is a change that seems to be adopted without much fuss.

“As a result of the training provided to inspection stations as the stickers were rolled out, the program has gone very well,” Crowe said.

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