Liberty Report: Pay Up or Don’t Drive

The Texas ‘Passenger Vehicle Safety Inspection Program’ is a scam. End it.

Registration sticker | Image by Mega Pixel

“Follow the science,” we’ve been told over the past few years. It’s a helpful injunction when applied properly and honestly. While in the Senate, the Texas ‘Passenger Vehicle Safety Inspection Program’ hit my radar. So I decided to follow the science, and what I discovered should disgust you.

The long and short are as follows. Vehicle safety inspections cost Texans hundreds of millions of dollars every year. This sounds like a great and good idea. After all, faulty vehicles kill. And yet, study after study shows little connection between the inspections and public health and safety improvements.

The causal connection is so weak, in fact, that the number of states that today require regular vehicle safety inspections has shrunk to 15, including Texas. That’s not following the science, as the old saying goes. But it does, interestingly enough, follow the money. Last year, our friends in Austin raised $288 million off this scheme. That’s quite a large subsidy to wean off.

But given the high costs and few, if any, benefits, we need to eliminate its passenger vehicle safety inspection program. Since the program was implemented in 1972, it has raised revenue by an average of 9.2% yearly. That’s not just because there are more cars on the road, it’s also because of the seven(!) fee increases heaped on our citizens since the program’s inception.

Happily, several attempts have been made to eliminate Texas’ Motor Vehicle Inspection Program in recent years. In 2017, my elimination bill cleared the Senate and almost made it out of the House. In the current session of the Texas Legislature, three bills have been filed to end the program. Of the three, HB 3297 (Harris)—the only one that has received a hearing—passed the Texas House on the third reading by a vote of 105-40. This bill eliminates noncommercial vehicle inspections. Now it’s time for the Senate to act.

Except, this legislation does not go far enough. Or rather, it purposely obfuscates something important. While noncommercial vehicle inspections are eliminated, the bill establishes “an equivalent vehicle inspection replacement fee to be paid at the time of vehicle registration.”

Once again, forget the science. Let’s follow the money!

Look at the groups that are working to keep this worthless and out-of-date program: Gulf States Toyota (billionaires), Alliance for Automotive Innovation, and all of the state inspection shops making money on Texas car owners (with the government!)

What makes all of this particularly upsetting is the naked theft. Even the U.S. General Accounting Office found that “research remains inconclusive about the effect of safety inspection programs on crash rates,” continuing, “What is available has generally been unable to establish any causal relationship.”

I am quite familiar with the car business and trust me when I tell you: vehicle inspections are a scam. You are being ripped off. Texas is the only Republican state to still have this policy. Right now, people from neighboring states and 32 other states can drive into Texas without inspections. This is not about safety or just about money; it’s about the most irreplaceable thing you have: your time wasted while getting an inspection.

Right now, a sister bill to HB 3297 is before the Senate. The solution is to pull the plug and completely eliminate this out-of-date and worthless program.

Stop the parasitic money grabbers and support HB 3297 in the Texas Senate so Texans can finally experience a little liberty with our vehicles.

Don Huffines is a former State Senator, self-made businessman, and proud fifth-generation Texan. You can keep up with his work advancing liberty, prosperity, and virtue at HuffinesLiberty.com and follow him @DonHuffines on Twitter and other social media. Huffines’ column, Liberty Report, runs weekly in The Dallas Express.

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