SB493: Is it time to reform vehicle safety checks?

The following testimony was presented Feb. 7, 2023, by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii to the Senate Committee on Transportation, Culture and the Arts.

Feb. 7, 2023
3 p.m.
Conference Room 224 & Videoconference

To: Senate Committee on Transportation, Culture and the Arts
      Senator Chris Lee, Chair
      Senator Lorraine Inouye, Vice Chair

From: Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
           Ted Kefalas, Director of Strategic Campaigns


Comments Only

Dear Chair and Committee Members:

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii would like to offer its comments on SB493, which would allow unmodified vehicles under five years old to forgo annual vehicle inspections and vehicles between five and 10 years of age to be inspected every two years instead of annually. The bill also would double the fee for the biennial inspections.

This measure seeks to remedy the burden that mandatory annual vehicle safety inspections place on many Hawaii residents.

Newer cars are generally safer than older cars,[1] and this bill recognizes this fact by subjecting only vehicles older than 10 years of age to the annual inspection.

In this regard, SB493 would remove unnecessary check-ups that often are a hassle for state residents, especially those from rural areas.

Across the country, only 15 states require safety inspections every year.[2] It is clear that mechanical failures are the cause of only 3% of accidents nationwide,[3] but research on whether these inspections reduce traffic accidents yields unclear results.

A study on the end of vehicle inspections in New Jersey, for example, found that “vehicle safety inspections do not represent an efficient use of government funds, and do not appear to have any significantly mitigating effect on the role of car failure in traffic accidents.”[4]

Hawaii’s Legislative Reference Bureau studied the issue in 1995 and concluded, “There is no conclusive evidence to indicate that the State’s periodic motor vehicle inspection program either is or is not achieving its desired outcome.”[5]

In 2019, the state Senate passed Senate Resolution 14, which directed the state Department of Transportation to conduct its own study of mandatory inspections. To our knowledge, this report was never conducted — or at least, never publicly released — since it is not posted to the department’s website.[6]

In general, SB493 recognizes the need to create smart regulations instead of overbroad mandates. We commend the introducers and sponsors for introducing this measure and furthering the discussion on vehicle safety checks.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

Ted Kefalas
Director of Strategic Campaigns
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

[1] Jim Gorzelany, “NHTSA Confirms Newer Cars Much Safer Than Older Ones,” Forbes, May 11, 2018.

[2] Christina Walsh, “Why Do Some States In the USA Have Vehicle Safety Inspections?” VINSmart, Nov. 8, 2021.

[3]  Alex Hoagland and Trevor Woolley, “It’s No Accident: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Vehicle Safety Inspections,” Contemporary Economic Policy, 2018, p. 14.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Keith Fukumoto, “Periodic Motor Vehicle Inspection in Hawaii: A Study of Selected Issues,” Legislative Reference Bureau, Report No. 7, 1995, p. 45.

[6] See “Reports to the Legislature,” Hawaii Department of Transportation, accessed Feb. 6, 2023.

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