Tire dealers and auto repair shops in Virginia will no longer be able to provide vehicle inspections if state legislators approve of Governor Ralph Northam’s new budget proposal.

This past December, in a letter that detailed his 2020-2022 budget plan, Northam wrote that in order “to stabilize our transportation system, we will restructure our funding model. First, we will eliminate vehicle safety inspections, which will save Virginians about $150 million each year.”

Northam continued, “Data shows that there is no connection between highway safety and these inspections. That’s why 35 other states don’t have them.”

Steve Akridge, executive director of the Virginia Automotive Association (VAA), says the elimination of vehicle inspections will cost vehicle owners and hurt his group’s members, some 250 of whom offer certified state vehicle inspections.

All vehicles registered in Virginia are required to undergo one annual safety inspection. 

During each inspection, certified technicians confirm operating standards for 21 vehicle systems or elements, including safety components like brakes, tires, steering, suspension, headlights, turn signals and more.

The regulation applies to all vehicles, from personal cars and light trucks to commercial buses and tractor-trailers.

“Vehicle inspections keep our motorists and highways safe,” says Akridge. “In 2018, 1.8 million vehicles failed Virginia’s inspection procedure. That’s one in five vehicles.”

Other states, he says, “have seen their highway fatality rates increase the very first year after they abolished their safety target programs.”

Inspections also help stores “with car count,” says Akridge, adding that in 2018, “there were only 822 complaints filed out of 8,209,716 (vehicle) inspections” conducted in Virginia.

This statistic shows that “consumers in Virginia do not have issues with the program," he adds. Each vehicle inspection costs consumers $20.

Right now, two bills – one in Virginia’s senate and another in the state’s House of Delegates – “are in play,” he says. “Both are part of the governor’s transportation package, which includes raising the (state’s) gas tax, and are being heard in committee.”

The senate bill officially will be heard on Thursday, Feb. 6.

After Northam announced his intention to cut vehicle inspections, the VAA – in conjunction with the Virginia Gasoline Marketers Council – “immediately went to work. Our first phone call was to our lobbyist.”

VAA then established a website, keepvirginiaroadssafe.org, to educate vehicle owners. Through the site and members’ stores, more than 20,000 citizens have signed a petition to stop vehicle inspections from being eliminated, says Akridge.

“We then worked to start a coalition of other groups opposed to this legislation and formed the Virginia Coalition for Safe Vehicles, which is comprised of 15 organizations.”

Preserving Virginia’s vehicle inspection program “is a big deal,” says Akridge. “We’re fighting it head-on.”

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