A small war is being waged on the Oklahoman's letters page, and the first volley appears to be here:

Ending the annual $5 safety inspection for vehicles was one of the most irresponsible acts ever committed by our Oklahoma government. Thousands of unsafe vehicles clog our highways with no headlights, no turn signals, no brake lights and slick and unsafe tires. Oklahoma is beginning to look like a third world country with smoking and poorly running vehicles. I pass them every day on my way to work along the Hefner Parkway.

Of course you do. Something like that you want behind you, not in front of you. I am most impressed that the writer is able to determine tire condition at 65 mph. And functional turn signals are of no benefit if the driver won't use them.

Agreement followed a week later:

[O]ur roads are teeming with unsafe vehicles driven by irresponsible people who don't care for their safety or anyone else's. I believe the majority would agree something needs to be done, but the resounding argument will lie with the cost to re-establish, maintain and oversee an annual inspection program. I wouldn't mind paying for a comprehensive safety inspection.

Let's do something now before Oklahoma ends up at the top of another national list with negative connotations.

Or let's don't:

Vehicle inspections don't stop breakneck speeds or the inevitable rear-end collision. Drivers can be accused of not paying attention, but a vehicle inspection won't stop that. The majority of people don't agree with the vehicle inspection program, obviously, as no great cry was heard against ending inspections.

Our vehicles can pass inspection easily, but if mine could not, I bet I could get someone to slap the sticker on it anyway, no matter how unsafe the vehicle.

And there's this (same day):

The cost of the old inspection was $5. Today it would be more like $50. The people driving older vehicles won't spend that much to get them inspected and those who have a violation won't either. The same thing happened when we had the previous system; the vehicles with current stickers were the newer vehicles that didn't need to be inspected and the run-down vehicles had outdated stickers. Laws are on the books that require all vehicle lights to function, etc., but they're not being enforced. Perhaps a letter to the chief of police and the Highway Patrol would be a better solution. At least that would save all law-abiding citizens $50 a year for a useless sticker on the windshield.

My major objection to the old inspection program is that it was perfunctory at best — and what do you expect for a $5 fee? It's a money-loser for a mechanic.

Oddly, the solution to this dilemma, if dilemma it be, may come from the Clean Air Act. As of this week, Oklahoma is considered at "attainment" of the 1997 8-hour ozone standard. The 2008 standard, however, is a bit stricter, and DEQ expects that at least some parts of the state will fail to meet the new standard.

If that happens, there's at least a measurable chance that we'll have mandatory emissions tests for at least some motor vehicles in Oklahoma, and if safety inspections are to be resumed, they should be conducted at the same time. California performs smog checks on vehicles 7 years old and up every two years in specific areas; this seems like a reasonable interval. I'm not going to guess what a reasonable fee would be. (California's air-quality requirements vary across the state, and therefore so does the price of the smog certificate.)

I don't consider this a particular hardship, but then my attention to vehicle maintenance borders on the scrupulous. But if we do eventually get smog checks and vehicle inspections, and the fee comes out to, say, $50, there will be hue and/or cry from those who make a living pointing out the obvious fact that people who have less money can't afford as many things as people who have more money, and the suggestion that an inspection routine might create more of a passenger base for public transit, another favored cause among such folks, likely will not be welcomed with open arms.

The Vent

  7 September 2008

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