If you renew the license plates on your vehicle after August 28* you might not have to get it inspected, under a bill signed into law this month.
Senate Bill 89 will extend from five to ten years the age of a vehicle before it must be inspected every two years, as long as it has fewer than 150,000 miles on it.
That provision was sponsored by Representative J. Eggleston (R-Maysville). He had discussed vehicle inspections with a former representative who wanted to eliminate them altogether. Eggleston initially thought that would go too far, but after doing some research, he felt that there was little connection between requiring regular inspections and ensuring that vehicles on the roads are safe.
“Come to find out that 35 states no longer make their citizens get their cars inspected at all, including all of the states that touch Missouri, and I was very surprised to learn that. So that gave us the data we needed to dig in to compare the states that do have inspection programs to the states that don’t to see if there really is any safety correlation or not and I was very surprised to learn there really doesn’t seem to be much of a correlation,” said Eggleston. “Over time we were able to settle on the fact that maybe we don’t want to get rid of the program but we could pare it back some and make it less of a hassle for Missourians, especially for cars that aren’t that old or haven’t been driven that much that, by and large, don’t end up with any mechanical-related accidents anyway.”
Eggleston said the change in law would apply to roughly half of the vehicles that currently would have to be inspected and a third of the total number of vehicles on the road today.
The proposal cleared both chambers, but was met with vocal opposition from some lawmakers who thought it would make Missouri roads less safe. St. Louis representative Donna Baringer (D) said one can look at how many cars are on Missouri roads with expired temp tags to see that people won’t be responsible enough to get vehicle inspections.
“If people are not willing to even get a permanent plate or car insurance, they surely will not bother ever getting their car inspected. I feel this is just one more thing that, unfortunately right now, citizens … don’t feel the responsibility,” said Baringer. “It’s not just about protecting their safety in driving a car but it’s about protecting my safety, and so I think there’ll be more cars on the road that should not be on the road.”
Baringer said she doesn’t think vehicles in states that don’t require inspections are as safe as those in states that do, regardless of what statistics might show. She said she sees evidence of that daily in cars that cross into her St. Louis district from neighboring Illinois.
“As I was driving down 55 the other day the car next to me had Illinois plates. It actually had tape holding the bumper together. The tires were bald, and it hydroplaned around the corner,” said Baringer. “Had it hit me that would’ve meant my life was in danger because they didn’t bother to put tires on their car, much less do anything but tape the parts that were falling off. So it isn’t better in the states that don’t have the inspections.”
Eggleston thinks time will tell Missourians won’t be less safe under these changes to the inspection program.
“Cars have definitely improved in their safety features and their longevity since the days when the inspection program came about. The program started with, actually, a federal mandate back in the ‘60s, but in the 1970s the federal government backed off of that and said they would leave it up to the states, and one-by-one from the ‘70s up until just a couple of years ago 35 states have gotten rid of their program altogether,” said Eggleston. “What we’re doing to roll this back a little bit is not an unheard of thing, and I don’t anticipate any statistical change in safety at all.”
SB 89 also includes provisions that require the revocation of the driver’s license of a person who hits a highway worker or emergency responder in a work or emergency zone; and require that all homemade trailers be inspected.
- An earlier version of this story said the vehicle inspection law changes take effect January 1, 2020. It was learned that provision was not included in SB 89, so the changes take effect August 28, 2019.