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Vehicle Safety Inspections

Vehicle safety inspections are required by law in Utah. When you register your car each year, you may be subject to an inspection, depending on the age of your vehicle. Inspectors check things like window visibility, horn volume, headlight strength and direction, brake and tire wear, and the hoses and belts under the hood.

Prior to 2012, Utah required vehicle safety inspections every other year for the first eight years of a vehicle’s life, and every year thereafter. In the 2012 Legislature there was an effort to repeal the law altogether, which led to a compromise reducing the requirement for inspection to vehicles that are 4, 8 and 10 years old. Inspections can cost no more than $15 for a typical car or truck, and Utahns spend about $25 million a year complying with the law.

Which brings us to the question: Does it work? Are Utah’s roads made safer by this law?

Maybe, though it’s hard to tell. When repeal efforts have come before the Legislature, mechanics and inspection store owners have testified that inspections result in many problems being fixed or that they keep unsafe vehicles off the road. However, according to the federal Government Accountability Office, only about 2 percent of crashes are caused by vehicle component failure, and it has been unable to find any direct link between safety inspections and fewer traffic accidents. Most accidents are caused by driver error, not obscured windshields or broken headlights.

At one point the federal government threatened to withhold some transportation funds from states that wouldn’t create an inspection program. They no longer do so, but by the 1970s over 30 states had inspection laws. Since then the numbers have dwindled. Today there are only 16 states with any sort of safety inspection requirement, and Utah is the only one in the West to have one.

Dig Deeper:

Sutherland Daily: Should Utah Eliminate Safety And Emission Testing?

Salt Lake Tribune: Move To Eliminate Car Safety Inspections Fails

Government Accountability Office Study: Vehicle Safety Inspections

Utah DMV: Inspection Requirements

Utah Highway Patrol: Vehicle Safety Inspection Procedures

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