The study, entitled, “Failure rates and data driven policies for vehicle inspections in Pennsylvania,” explains the safety benefits of the annual inspection program.
Rail, truck, commercial bus, and aircraft have federally mandated safety inspection programs in the United States, while inspections of personal vehicles, which make up the majority of passenger miles, are optionally imposed at the state level. In recent years, some states have chosen to eliminate the vehicle safety inspection program because of budget constraints and concerns about program effectiveness. Currently, 26 states have a schedule for conducting safety inspections, but Pennsylvania is one of thirteen states that currently require all personal light duty vehicles to be inspected every year. The remaining states have completely eliminated safety inspection programs. However, as automobiles become safer, Pennsylvania legislators are now pushing to phase out the inspection program to reduce the costs of owning a vehicle. This study combines Pennsylvania vehicle registration data with two large samples of results from state safety inspections. We find that the state safety inspection fail rate for light-duty vehicles is 12–18%, well above the often-cited rate of 2%. Vehicles that are older than three years old or have more than about 30,000 miles can have much higher rates. When analyzing new vehicles, less than or equal to one year old, it is found that even these vehicles have a failure rate greater than zero. Furthermore, while the vehicle fleet appears to be getting safer over the past few years by improvements in technology or other external circumstances, the inspection failure rate does not appear to be trending toward zero in the near future. We also show that accurate inspection data is limited and often incorrectly analyzed. Lastly, the importance of vehicle maintenance over a vehicle’s lifetime is proven to be evident, since regular usage causes vehicles to deteriorate. We conclude that vehicle safety inspections should continue to be implemented in order to keep driving conditions safe.
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