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Cars in D.C.: To inspect or not to inspect?

Like so many cities and states across the country, the District has desperately been trying to find ways to trim its budget during the recession. Last year, the Fenty administration proposed, and the D.C. Council approved, eliminating the safety inspections that had been required of all private vehicles--a move the city says saves taxpayers $400,000 annually.

But that doesn’t mean D.C. residents get out of taking their car to the inspection station every two years; there’s still a federally-mandated emissions test. And even though the safety inspection is no more, there hasn’t been a break in the price. We revisited the issue last weekInspectphoto.jpg to see what drivers thought—and the story produced some reaction.

The Washington City Paper chimed in, saying: “Like it or not, the D.C. inspection program was rigorous, spotting just about everything that could go wrong with your car, from front brakes to rear brakes to lighting to wipers and so on. There's no way the regime didn't make for safer highways. Just no way.”

Reader Ruth E. Thaler-Carter agreed: “For the District to cancel vehicle inspections is INSANE! Vehicle inspections are often the only way of knowing that one's car is safe and in good shape. If the District does not want to handle the process, it could hand the work off to (certified) area service stations, as is done in many other states.”

To defend the cut, the city has pointed to studies concluding that inspections don’t always make roads safer. James R. Campbell of Arlington thinks so too and called the inspections “a waste of time and money" that serves "no real purpose except to give repair facilities an excuse to falsely demand that unneeded repairs be made.”

Meanwhile, council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) read The Post's story and fired off an email to Lucinda M. Babers, director of the city’s Department of Motor Vehicles, saying, “It is now time to assess what impact this has had on safety and service, and revisit the issue if need be.” He asked for more information about the amount of time spent in line at the inspection station and whether there was any correlation between the program and safety, among other things.

He promises to report back to us with results.

Stay tuned. Meantime, let us know what you think: Should the city inspect private vehicles or not?

By Christian Davenport  | January 6, 2010; 10:05 AM ET
Categories:  The Blowback  
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