A legislator who sought to end Utah's car safety inspection program shifted gears Thursday to simply reduce when inspections are required instead but a standing-room only crowd of inspection shop owners said that still would sacrifice safety and destroy many of their jobs.
But the House Revenue and Taxation Committee was appeased, and voted 13-2 to pass HB298 by Rep. John Dougall, R-Highland, and send it to the full House.
The bill would require inspections at the fourth year of a car's life, the eighth year, the 10th year and annually thereafter. Currently, the law requires inspections every other year through the eighth year of a car's life, and then annually.
Dougall said many states have been eliminating inspection programs, dropping from 31 states that require them to 17 in recent years. He said data about causes of fatal car accidents also shows that few crashes even in states without inspections involve equipment problems.
Most accidents come from speeding, or inattentive or impaired driving, said Dougall, who added it would make sense to end inspections and use the money saved to put more Highway Patrol troopers on the road to help with the other problems.
The state departments of Public Safety and Transportation initially opposed a full repeal of safety inspections saying they feel they are important to safety but worked out the middle ground with Dougall to save some inspections.
"What we see today is a compromise we feel we can support," said Lance Davenport, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety. He said Dougall's compromise would lead to about 1.1 million inspections a year, down from the current 1.7 million annually.
It would allow, over time, shifting resources to hire six additional Highway Patrol troopers, he said. The bill would raise registration fees to make up for a loss of inspection fees.
Owners of companies that perform inspections still were not happy and they packed the hearing room and the hall outside it.
"It is not responsible to compromise safety," said David Neff, a Jiffy Lube franchisee. "That is where we are." He and other businessmen said it will also cost many jobs.
John Griffin, another Jiffy Lube franchisee, said Dougall also is making some incorrect assumptions by having few inspections before the eighth year of a car's life. Dougall said that is when inspection failure rates for cars jump higher.
But Griffin said many people know inspections are coming, and have repairs made before they have inspections and fail so that does not show up in failure rates. "Many won't do it [have needed repairs] if you make these changes." He also worried the step may be a precursor to a full repeal in a few years.