Mechanic, police discuss impacts of eliminating vehicle safety inspections in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY -- Starting January 1st 2018, Utah law changed regarding vehicle safety inspections.

Emissions testing is still required, but drivers no longer have to pass a yearly vehicle safety inspection.

At Hillside Tire in Sandy, owner Mark Robison said there are clear pros and cons to the law change.

“Customers are happy," he said. "Even I’m happy that you don’t have to do it anymore, ‘cause they’re kind of a pain in the butt."

He has also seen some serious problems, however. He had two customers come in recently with used cars that were hardly safe to drive.

One young man brought in a Dodge pickup truck one evening and asked Robison to give it a quick look. Robison said the customer explained the truck would make a strange noise when driving it on the highway.

“I’m looking at it and I seen it like 10 feet away," Robison said. "I said, 'Have you been working on this?' 'No.' I said, 'Uh, you’re missing your lower control arm. How long have you had this truck?' 'Five days. I just bought it. Used.'”

After looking closer, Robison noticed the truck was missing both control arms.

"The whole front end could buckle and come up over and flip that truck upside down," he said, "and he's been driving on the freeway for five days."

The truck also had other equipment issues, including four different-sized tires that were completely bald.

“Once we started looking at it, it was so bad, I’m like, 'This isn’t worth fixing',” Robison said of the man's truck. “His bill would have been around 3,800 bucks. He paid $3,200 for the truck.”

Robison said because that customer had signed for the vehicle "as is"—a typical practice in buying a used car from a dealership—and drove it off the lot, he had no recourse. It was no longer the dealership's problem. Plus, dealerships are not required to complete a safety inspection on used cars anymore, so Robison said it is now up to the consumer to make sure the car is safe.

Robison suggested getting the car inspected before purchasing. If the dealership says no, Robison said that is a red flag and to buy a car elsewhere.

Others are knowingly driving unsafe vehicles.

“If people are out there and they think, 'Well now I can do whatever I want. I can put as dark as window tint on my car as I want because now it doesn’t need to pass safety inspection,' they’re in the wrong,” said Lt. Todd Royce with Utah Highway Patrol.

Royce said troopers are now specifically looking for equipment violations. Since the law has changed, he said, things have shifted from "compliance-based to enforcement-based."

He said if people are, for example, driving with a severely cracked windshield, no tail lights, or broken tail lights or headlights, they will be pulled over and will "most likely get a citation."

“It’s the driver’s responsibility to make sure that that vehicle’s safe," Royce said. "So we’re hoping that people will do that. We’re hoping that people will still take an active interest in making sure their vehicle is in compliance.”

“It’s also to protect you, me, and everybody else out there so we’re not having a bucket of bolts on the road and kill somebody," Robison added.