The Increasing Disappearance of State Safety Inspections 

April 12, 2024
Texas is the latest state to forego required safety inspections. What does that mean for shops and their customers? 

Of the millions of drivers in the state of Texas, each one has had to have their vehicles inspected by a certified inspection station. Beginning in 2025, however, Texan drivers will stop paying for inspections and instead be charged that money for registration fees. 

The elimination of required safety inspections not only impacts road safety but the operations of repair shops across the state. With Texas being far from the only state to do away with annual safety inspections, Thomas Eanes, general manager of Veteran Auto Repair in Wichita Falls, Texas, discusses what repair shops can do in the face of this change. 


The Inspection That Cried Wolf 

Eanes credits improper inspection procedures as the main culprit behind the Texas decision. He’s seen shops neglect to report when a vehicle has failed the inspection test, opting instead for repairing the issue and then putting it down as if it had initially passed. As a result, the state receives misleading data suggesting a much lower rate of safety issues cropping up than what is being seen. 

Lawmakers began to question whether safety inspections were having any real impact on safety. Maintaining the program has been no small cost for Texas, which has had to hire people from across the state to keep these inspection stations in check. 

This is something that can require a great deal of time and resources, such as when performing ‘ghost inspections’: a practice in which a state employee sends in a vehicle to an inspection that is set up for failure. If the inspection station failed to detect and note the existing issues, they would be fined. 

“So this is a win-win for the state,” describes Eanes. “They're also not having to pay out the money for these computers and stuff that they send to all the different inspection facilities–but now they're grabbing that $7.” 

The $7 Eanes refers to is the fee drivers pay for state inspections, which goes to the facility performing the test; but, beginning next year, that money that was being paid to local businesses will now be added to vehicle registration fees collected annually by the government. 

“There will be some money that was lost to some of the shops, more specifically, the shops that actually performed it correctly (and) did it right; there was a failure, and then it goes back in and (they) retest it as a pass,” Eanes says. 

Shops that offer safety inspections will also lose a valuable source of customer outreach. For a town with a lot of people coming and going–like Wichita Falls, which houses a military base–a simple search for places offering safety inspections is what can introduce your business to a new customer. For Veteran Auto Repair, that’s how some of their business is gained. 


Passing the Buck to ... Who? 

Even though required safety inspections are being done away with, vehicle safety laws will still apply: if a police officer catches you with a busted taillight, you can still be pulled over and fined for that. But for many drivers, it’s more financially beneficial to ignore the problem and bank on not getting caught when there’s a chance they may not. 

Of all the state’s law enforcement divided by every driver on the road, the chances of them being able to find every safety violation are slim. Worn brakes, inadequate tires, bad oil: these are all relatively simple things, but not something that could be easily noticed while passing by. 

If an officer manages to spot a vehicle violating safety standards, it could often be cheaper for the driver to get ticketed than to seek out the repair, with concern for safety falling to the wayside. 

“Some of these newer cars, the third brake light is actually an LED assembly that's almost $1,000. And this is on a GM vehicle,” Eanes says. “So, are you going to go out and spend $1,000 on a five or 10-year-old vehicle that's got that light setup on it, or are you going to keep taking your chances on the $50 fine?” 

With the price of automotive parts and repairs already being a huge burden on individuals and families, the choice to simply delay and ignore the problem until it’s unavoidable can be tempting. Without requiring safety inspections, what ways are there to encourage drivers to still practice upkeep on their vehicles? 

Having been in the industry since he was 18 years old, Eanes’ 36 years in the automotive field have found him everywhere from dealerships to managing various shops. In that time, he’s seen a slow decline in automotive education for young people, leading to many growing up and learning to drive while neglecting the essential safety functions of their vehicles. 

During Eanes’ time working at dealerships, he would conduct programs for vehicle owners to help educate them on the vehicles they had just purchased. He would get in touch with everyone who had bought a vehicle from them in the last month–used or new–and would obtain owners’ manuals for each vehicle and invite them to come and sit in on an informative session.  

He would provide attendees with food and drinks and begin by going over simpler functions: how to operate the CD player, how to use cruise control, or how to program a garage door opener. As the class progressed, Eanes would transition into discussing what could impact their safety. They learned how to measure their tires’ tread depth, the importance of wearing a seatbelt, and the risk airbags can pose.

The gap in what the drivers knew and didn’t know quickly became clear to Eanes, and it’s something he’s seeing more and more, leading him to hope for a push in educating drivers. 


Committed to Safety 

Ignorance is bliss–but for a driver, it can become increasingly dangerous the older they get and the more careless they become.  

“You get someone who's been driving for 40 years, 50 years: they think they're the Mario Andretti of driving on the road. They know it all, they've done it all, they can handle their car, no matter what,” says Eanes. 

With the cost of car ownership already being so high, it isn’t surprising that people who aren’t as involved with automotive work won’t make it a priority to keep everything in check. It can be easy to ignore something until it becomes a problem, but when it does, it can be much worse than simply receiving a ticket: it can mean injury or death. 

“They say there's one death every minute of every day in a motor vehicle accident,” Eanes states. “You got cell phones: some of it is careless driving or not paying attention. But there's gonna be a lot out there that’s safety stuff; that if you had better tires, maybe you wouldn't have hydroplaned and went off the road. If you had better brakes that work correctly, you may have been able to stop better.” 

Statewide required safety inspections are something that helps keep drivers accountable, but in their absence, repair shops have a duty–now more than ever–to ensure their customers aren’t driving a vehicle that threatens anyone’s safety, including their own.

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