According to Wikipedia, many US states have a relaxed policy for car inspection regulations:

Maryland requires an inspection prior to registration or transfer of ownership only. Several states have abolished their safety inspection programs in recent years, claiming that these programs do not reduce accidents and are merely a tax on vehicle owners.

Some states, including Florida, Kentucky and Minnesota, have discontinued their testing programs in recent years with approval from the federal government

The same article mentions various regulations throughout the world and most of them are more or less "car inspection is mandatory every 2 years after a certain vehicle age".

According to this article mandatory inspections might help with lowering accidents:

The observed probability of accident involvement (as measured by either rate) was found to increase with time since last inspection. This result supports the alternative hypothesis that a mandatory safety inspection has an immediate safety benefit which decreases over time.

[EDIT] Since comments correctly point out that car inspections might lead to less air pollution, I am also including a reference to sustain this. This article argues that emissions checks might lead to reduce of air pollution with certain substances:

Using over a decade of data from the state of California, we show an increase in emissions-related repairs, as proxied by passing post-repair inspections, corresponds to local improvement in CO, NOx and PM10 levels, but with little change in local O3.

However, additional gains from the Smog Check program are decreasing with time, as almost all benefits of repairs and re-inspections come from fixing failing older model cars (1985 and prior) with inferior emissions control technology. As older technology cars disappear from the road, the differential between failing and repaired emissions decreases.

Question: Why do so many US States have a relaxed (or none at all in some cases) vehicle inspection policy? This seems to be quite unusual when referenced to other countries and also seems to be less safe.

  • 2
    Both the question and the current answer focus on safety/accident reduction, but I believe that emissions standards adherence is just as large a factor in many car inspection situations.
    – Gramatik
    Feb 14, 2018 at 15:31
  • As with any statistical study, you'd have to see if the correlation was significant, and, of course, correlation doesn't imply causation. There may be other hidden factors involved.
    – user2565
    Feb 14, 2018 at 17:06
  • 1
    The time since last inspection and the age and mileage of the vehicle are highly correlated in states that don't require ongoing inspections, so I'm suspicious of any study that isn't careful to compare vehicles with similar age/mileage but different inspection dates. Feb 14, 2018 at 17:19
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    Downvoted because the question answers itself, in the quote: "... these programs do not reduce accidents and are merely a tax on vehicle owners..." FWIW, I live in a state that doesn't have a "relaxed" policy: it has no mandatory inspection (other than emissions) at all, and AFAIK never has.
    – jamesqf
    Feb 14, 2018 at 19:43
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    @jamesqf Isn't that "infinitely relaxed"? And the question also contains a quote that contradicts that: "mandatory safety inspection has an immediate safety benefit"
    – Barmar
    Feb 14, 2018 at 20:28

2 Answers 2


There's a few reasons why, but the two largest are

  1. It's effectively a tax on cars (and a regressive tax at that). A Texas legislator noted that when introducing a bill to repeal Texas' law

    So let’s call these inspections what they really are: a tax on Texans’ time and money. [It] costs Texans an annual $267 million in fees alone. What’s arguably worse is the tax on our time — the program forces more than 50,000 trips to the inspection station every single day, resulting in more than 9 million wasted hours every year. That adds up to $203 million in lost wages, based on average salary data…This type of flat cost disproportionately affects lower-income Texans, and while most begrudge the annual trip to the station, these individuals are truly harmed by this unnecessary and counterproductive mandate.

  2. There's no evidence they actually promote safety

    According to a study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, there is no evidence to indicate that mandatory safety inspection programs reduce accidents. The report demonstrates that crash rates are roughly the same in states that have them as in those that do not.

  • 4
    Additionally, the consequences of the inspections also disproportionately impact lower-income citizens, as they would be more likely to own a car that would fail inspection and have less means to do anything about it. Fixing a car to meet safety or emission standards is expensive.
    – Seth R
    Feb 14, 2018 at 17:48
  • 30
    Crash rates almost certainly aren't the right statistic? You wouldn't really expect abolishing safety inspections to lead to more crashes; I'd expect it to lead to worse crashes. Feb 14, 2018 at 22:02
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    @DavidRicherby - OK, I've been trying to come up with some reason why you'd expect worse crashes but not more crashes. Other than "your seat belt doesn't work", I'm having a hard time coming up with other examples supporting your conjecture. Everything I can think of would result in more crashes; some of which would lead to an increase in worse crashes. However, I can't think of any other examples besides seat belts that would not lead to more crashes but would lead to worse crashes? Any other examples that I haven't thought of?
    – Dunk
    Feb 14, 2018 at 22:48
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    @Dunk I'd expect more corrosion and loss of structural integrity to lead to crashes being more dangerous, whereas I'd expect poor mechanical integrity to lead to more breakdowns rather than crashes. Feb 14, 2018 at 23:09
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    @Dunk generally in inspection states all factory installed equipment must work. It happens in non-inspection states to not have airbags recharged or underlying structural deformity repaired after minor collisions. People with no airbags and damaged crumple zones are certainly driving around at greater risk, potentially with unaware or unable to consent passengers (or may not even know themselves if came from a shady seller.) Why it should be legal to drive '73 pinto but not 2013 Corolla with depleted airbag is a question of liberty that drives opposition to inspection!
    – Affe
    Feb 15, 2018 at 0:17

I'm a gear-head and I live in north Houston, an area with a high population density and we have both safety and emissions inspections. I've put a moderate amount of thought into why or why not to have these inspections over the years and I have overtime come to side with having them. One conclusion I have come to after looking into this is that these inspections are mainly found in and around high population areas, which makes sense. All areas of high population density come with increased requirements on the citizens, taxes (both higher and more of them), parking fees, a variety of restrictions which likely come with fees and the list goes on. The point is that since there are more of us we must all do more to safeguard our way of life since one false move can have higher consequences in these areas of high population density versus lower population areas. If you disagree with them then just move, there are counties that do not require safety or emissions inspections...

  • 3
    In the current scenario, there is no country that cannot sit back. Any emission by a country is bound to effect some country if not theirs. sciencing.com/effects-car-pollutants-environment-23581.html might help you understand that every region needs emission control. Feb 15, 2018 at 8:02
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    Actually, rural areas usually have more deaths per capita due to traffic accidents than urban areas. But that's not really relevant for this, because as the other answer established, there is no correlation between safety inspections and traffic accidents.
    – Philipp
    Feb 15, 2018 at 8:18
  • 1
    Your argument seems to be "safety inspections are okay because 'living in the city' and if you don't like it then you should move". Have I got that right? Feb 15, 2018 at 17:08
  • Hi and welcome. Please take a moment for our tour. I don't think this is an unreasonable answer (similar thinking to a recent question) but I would prefer evidence that this is a popular or noted view.
    – user9389
    Feb 15, 2018 at 17:31
  • @Philipp: But the more deaths per capita in rural areas is to a considerable extent a misuse of statistics, as it counts people from urban areas travelling through on highways. E.g. one fatal accident on heavily-travelled US 95 in Esmeralda County, Nevada (population 790) gives a pretty high per-capita death rate.
    – jamesqf
    Feb 17, 2018 at 3:36

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