Utah Legislature Repeals Public Safety

Monday, July 31, 2017 - 9:15am
John Kushma

Utah Legislature Repeals Public Safety


The Utah legislature has done it agin.  Last year they were all agog about receiving commemorative gift AR-15 semiautomatic rifles from the Browning firearms company sporting the Utah Sate Seal.  They sorely missed the message they were sending to the general public.  Unfortunately for them, this happened the same week that several mass shooting incidents were in the news featuring the same military stye assault weapon. They were widely criticized for the symbolism and bad optics that their sleeve-wearing, flag-waving, gun happy Second Amendment right displayed. 


Now, with a further eye toward potential tragedy, this time on our national highways, this same body of elected officials have rescinded the state requirement for annual vehicle safety inspections.


I often wonder why elected officials, seemingly intelligent adult men and women, drivers themselves, break from logic and plain common sense to create an unsafe environment for both themselves and the general public.


This new bill and now law, sponsored by Republican Representative Dan McCay of Riverton and Republican Senator Deidre Henderson of Spanish Fork, and signed by Governor Gary Herbert, goes into effect January 2018.


Some of the arguments for the new law are contrived.  One contends that it will save Utah drivers $25 million a year.  That sounds like a lot, impressive number, and that is combined by the way, not each!  I wonder if they considered what a highway fatality costs a family?  


They argue that only fifteen other states, mostly liberal eastern states, have a mandatory yearly vehicle safety inspection requirement.  I wonder if everyone jumped off a bridge, would they do the same?  Why lead when you can follow?


They further build their case with “the facts” ..like that there is no supporting data that shows mechanical failures are a major contributing factor in causing car accidents.  I love the language, words are so important in building one’s case.  What if mechanical failures are a “substantive cause” as opposed to a “major cause”, or have any bearing as a cause?  Hey, an accident is an accident. 


Here’s the best one ..they feel that the safer a driver thinks his car is, the more reckless he will drive, thus causing an accident.  Who thinks like this? 


Here’s the thing about safety.  It’s basic risk management.  You want to put as many plausible stopgaps between you and an accident as you can.  The yearly mandatory vehicle safety inspection is the most critical active safety agent we have.  


Otherwise, the Utah legislature, by virtue of passing this bill and the governor signing it into law, is putting the burden of vehicle safety on the general public.  Talk about an accident waiting to happen.  Have you been in touch with the general public lately?  Most people are too busy with their lives, their jobs, their problems, to take the time to do the vehicle inspections that are mandatory under the old law.  Brakes, lights, tire inflation, loose parts, etc.  And let’s say half of them do take the time to maintain their vehicles.  That’s only half!  Really? ...do you really want to be on the road with a brake drum that’s about to fail ..or a light that doesn’t work, or a muffler dragging behind you?  Or worse, the same scenario with the car next to you on I-15 doing 85 mph?  


If we can’t convince people to obey the speed limits or drinking or texting laws, how do we expect them to be responsible and do the due diligence of maintaining their vehicle?


Here’s the other thing about safety.  It’s awareness.  The mandatory vehicle safety inspection requirement keeps you aware that safety is a serious concern, and that your public safety officials mean business regarding safety.  For your own safety, but mostly for the safety of others on the road.  Rescinding the vehicle inspection requirement sends the message that you are on your own, and the safety people, whoever they are, don’t really care.


But you can be secure in the thought that a Utah Highway Patrolman will always be there to scrape you and your loved ones off the freeway when your time comes. 


I haven’t talked with a UHP officer, or any police officer or public safety official who thinks this new no safety inspection is a good idea.    

Repealing the vehicle safety inspection requirement, in my opinion, is as risky as raising the legal BAC (blood alcohol content) level to 0.50, or not requiring a driver’s license at all, or eliminating speed limits.  Or selling AR-15s to crazy people ..or giving them as gifts emblazoned with the state seal to the Utah legislature.


(To their credit, however, the Utah legislature did lower the legal BAC level to .05 from the .08.  Good job on that one, but really a no brainer.) 


So what is really behind the new law to eliminate vehicle safety inspections?  In any investigation they tell you to follow the money.  There is money in alcohol.  There is money in guns.  There is money and costs associated with traffic accidents.  But really, there is no easy money to be made from safety.  


Does the Utah legislature and governor think they are giving us all a token break, saving us the minimal cost of a safety inspection, by forfeiting our actual safety?  Think about the business the Utah auto repair people will lose?  Personally, I always welcomed the yearly inspection/registration scenario.  Although I didn’t want to hear it, I appreciated knowing that my break pads were worn, or my tire tread unsafe, or my back right signal light is out.  It helped me to be safe.  It reinforced and complemented my own vehicle safety scenario.  


It gave me confidence that our safety officials were looking out for us.     


John Kushma is a communication consultant and lives in Logan, Utah.