State Inspections Curtailed in New Jersey
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission makes a compelling case about why it is important for the state's drivers to have their cars inspected for safety every two years.
"Even the most conscientious person behind the wheel can be an unsafe driver if he heads out on the road with bad brakes, bald tires or one of a hundred other safety problems," the agency says on a state website , njinspections.com. "That's a big reason why New Jersey has one of the strictest auto inspections in the nation. We're absolutely committed to keeping you, your family and everyone who shares our roads as safe as possible."
Despite what the site may say now, New Jersey's auto inspection program became a lot less strict last week. To save $17 million a year, the Motor Vehicle Commission did away with biennial safety inspections for private cars.
That means it is now up to New Jersey residents themselves to identify and repair bad brakes, cracked windshields, broken turn signals, steering problems and a range of other mechanical failures, a Motor Vehicle Commission spokesman, Mike Horan, told Stateline . The state itself will check only for emissions violations, although commercial vehicles such as school buses, taxis and limousines still will be subject to the old regulations.
In a press release , the Motor Vehicle Commission said only 6 percent of the 1.9 million cars inspected in New Jersey each year are rejected because of "serious mechanical defects." Doing away with the safety inspections was a "common-sense decision," according to Raymond P. Martinez, the head of the commission.
Thirty states and the District of Columbia now do not check their residents' cars for safety violations. But New Jersey's decision is likely to cause concern among auto safety advocates who warned last year — when the District of Columbia did the same thing — that the change would negatively affect road safety. Critics say drivers will be far less inclined to fix problems on their own than if they are faced with a regular state inspection, particularly in a bad economy.
"Safety inspections are particularly needed in hard economic times, because when you're on a tight budget, you tend to skip the badly needed maintenance," one advocate, Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Automotive Safety, told USA Today after the District of Columbia eliminated safety inspections last December.