My Turn: Auto inspection law fails the test

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 24, 2011

By Bruce La Rue

Add me to the list of citizens who favor repeal of the law requiring the annual jump-through-the-hoop known as vehicle inspections. My recent run-in with the DMV is a prime example of a law which is not cost-effective, and adversely affects the lower economic classes disproportionately.
Ignorance of the law is no excuse, no matter how inane the law. That being said…
About a month ago, I took our 1992 Honda Accord for its annual inspection, a requirement for renewing one’s license tag. Due to the vehicle’s age, it doesn’t require an emissions test, just a safety inspection. The spirit of the law is to keep unsafe vehicles off the road; the letter of the law goes a little deeper. Therein lies the problem.
The first mechanic did a thorough inspection and informed me the car has failed. To pass, my little menace to society must have the following issues addressed: Upper left ball joint, resonator, outer tie rod end, left side CV axle boot, and front parking lamps. Cost for said repairs: $700. The car has 248,000 miles on it. The only time it might be worth $700 is when the gas tank is full. During a two-year stretch of unemployment, we have tried to keep our fleet of second cars (the other is a 1991 Ranger, 230,000 miles) roadworthy enough to keep a tag on them, with a focus on tires and brakes. As with most people in our situation, we do not drive high-mileage cars because we love them; we drive them because it is the best we can do at the time.
On the way home, my mind fogged in by anxiety and dread of the prospect of having to park the Honda, a light shone through. I decided try another inspection station, hoping for a more generous ruling. I didn’t mention that the car had failed inspection earlier. The car passed, I renewed my tag. Happy ending? Yes. Or, rather, no.
A few days ago, I get a call on my cell phone from my wife informing me that the DMV, obviously inspired by the exploits of Seal Team Six, has dropped a team of operatives into our compound and had Osama bin Honda surrounded. My stepdaughter was the only one home at the time, and when she saw two operatives emerge from the Crown Vic packing heat, she was terrified. Her first thoughts were that she was about to be informed of a family fatality. After some questioning, and fearing the possibility of enhanced interrogation techniques, they were able to glean a treasure trove of intel from her, including my wife’s work phone and my cell number. Why they did not call before coming out remains a mystery. When I spoke to operative No. 1, he informed me what I did was illegal, and I would be fined $166 for my transgression. We set up a time to meet at the compound.
When I met with the DMV inspectors the next day, I pleaded my case, using logic and reason. I kept my sarcasm to a minimum, probably the most difficult part of this incident.
I was given the citation, in which I am listed as defendant. It has some interesting wording: “… you did unlawfully and willfully allow an electronic inspection authorization to be issued to a vehicle owned operated (sic) by the defendant, knowing that the vehicle should not pass inspection, a violation of vehicle inspection law. (G.S. 20-183.8(A) 2.”
The wording states I have aided and abetted myself. The cynic in me says that they are tagging both runners standing on the same base with the hopes of nailing at least one. The state already got its pound of flesh from me in the form of two inspection fees in the same day. Unsatisfied, they seek to wrest another $166 from me, less the costs incurred by two trips out to Mt. Ulla, including public sector pay and benefits.
This fiasco wrapped in a debacle illustrates the need to do away with the annual inspection hoop jump. We have a state sales tax, a state income tax, a vehicle tax and a gasoline tax. Operative number one told me that only about 85 cents of the inspection fee goes back to the state.
Oh, yes, let us not forget the voluntary tax on the poor, the lottery.
While I will concede ignorance of the law is no excuse, I would submit that ignorance of the need to repeal a stupid, expensive law is no excuse either.

Bruce La Rue lives in Mt. Ulla.

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