Editorial: Coordinated safety effort on vehicles

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 18, 2008

If you’re an absent-minded car owner who has trouble remembering when to get your vehicle inspected, life’s about to get a little simpler.
On the other hand, if you’re a scofflaw who habitually ignores expired inspection stickers because you think it’s unlikely you’ll get tagged by the police, you may be in for a surprise.
The reason is a change in the state Division of Motor Vehicles’ automobile inspection system that will coordinate license plate renewals and inspections. Previously, motorists renewed their license plates and their inspection stickers through two separate processes at separate times, sometimes months apart. Under that system, it was possible for someone to drive for months ó or longer ó on an expired inspection sticker. With the change, effective in November, motorists will have to get any required safety and emissions checks completed before the state will renew the vehicle’s registration. The inspection station will electronically transmit the inspection results directly to the DMV.
Although this will mean one less to-do date for N.C. drivers, the state isn’t doing this for the convenience of forgetful citizens. Currently, as few as 81 percent of drivers comply with the safety inspection requirement. The new system is expected to boost compliance to 98 percent, and that’s a good thing for all of us. Safety inspections help reduce the number of vehicles rolling around with serious deficiencies such as bald tires, bad brakes or malfunctioning headlights or blinkers. Emissions checks (required for newer vehicles in urban counties) help make sure that a vehicle’s pollution-control devices are working properly ó no small thing in a state with 7 million registered motor vehicles and some serious ozone issues that are all too familiar to Rowan residents.
Although the new system starts on Nov. 1, it will be phased in gradually. So what should you do if your inspection sticker just expired but your registration renewal doesn’t come up for several months? Get the inspection done as usual, state officials say. They assure us that no vehicle will need to be inspected twice within a 12-month period.
Initially, until motorists get used to the new system, there may be some confusion (especially when they’re told they’ll no longer get a new windshield sticker). And don’t be surprised if some computer glitches pop up ó don’t they always? But in the long run, the coordinated registration-inspection process will mean one less thing to remember ó and better adherence to the law.