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Editorial: Safer vehicles

Monday, March 6, 2006

Senate Majority Leader Charlie Shields proposes to end the state's vehicle safety inspection program. He says he isn't convinced the state's roads are any safer because of the inspections and hears lots of complaints. "Consumers just tell me they believe it's a huge pain," says the St. Joseph Republican.

Shields' bill, which has received initial approval in the Senate, has the support of House Speaker Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill. He says the inspections mean "a lot of hassles and troubles waiting in line."

Here are some facts:

* A study of 420 crashes by the Institute for Research in Public Safety at Indiana University found that vehicle defect either caused or increased the severity in 4.5 percent of the traffic crashes studied, were a probable cause in 8.1 percent of crashes and a possible cause in 12. 6 percent of crashes. In other words, vehicle defect was a probable or possible cause in one-fourth of the accidents.

* Between 2000 and 20003, of 113,513 fatal accidents nationwide involving automobiles, SUVs, motorcycles, vans and light trucks, a vehicle defect was a contributing factor in 1.8 percent of the crashes. That resulted in 2,483 fatalities in crashes involving a defective vehicle.

* In the foregoing study, vehicle defects contributing to fatal accidents were proportionately fewer in states with motor vehicle safety inspection programs compared to states that don't have inspection programs. The difference was one in 82.78 vehicles with periodic inspection programs compared to one in 72.9 vehicles without this kind of program.

* Missouri's inspection program appears to be working. In the study, only one in every 117.6 Missouri vehicles had a defect that helped cause a fatal accident.

Unless legislators can find some indication that the cost and bother of having vehicles inspected outweighs the lives potentially saved by having fewer defective vehicles on the road, it seems prudent to keep Missouri's inspection program.


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