East Hawaii News

Changes to Vehicle Safety Inspections Labeled ‘Brutal’

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A plan to overhaul the state’s vehicle safety inspection program received a rough reception during a statewide public hearing held today by videoconferencing.

The changes proposed by the state Department of Transportation include computerizing the safety check system by having a vendor provide a computer tablet to each inspection station.

That means each participating station must have a digital subscriber line, also known as a DSL, or similar broadband internet connection to continue providing the inspection service.

The vendor would also provide each station with a printer to print the new one-piece safety “stickers,” which would contain the vehicle’s serial number, a move state officials hope would cut down on sticker fraud.

Another reason the state wants to computerize the system is because it currently has a six-month backlog in handling the paperwork, which can cause problems for those seeking to re-register their vehicle.

All this would come with an increased cost of $4.49 to the vehicle owner, the first increase since the 1980s. Inspections for cars and trucks would go up to $19.19 before tax and for motorcycles it would be $13.24.

Out of each inspection, $1.69 would go to Parsons, the company providing the tablet and printer, $1.70 would go to the state and $1.10 would go to the inspection station.

That is not nearly enough, several of those testifying at today’s public hearing said.

“Let’s face it, it’s not a money-maker,” said former safety inspector Robert Mundey. Testifying from Kahului, Maui, Mundey proposed a fee of $25 to $35.

Several others said that a fee of up to $50 would not be unrealistic for the time it takes to properly inspect the vehicle.

Others said the biggest problem with the program is drivers not being aware that their sticker has expired. That became an issue years ago when the state stopped mailing notifications to the public, and that service won’t return even with the system’s computerization.

Those testifying today included state Rep. Dee Morikawa from Kauai, who called the proposed rules “brutal,” and noted that some inspectors lack internet access at their businesses.

Kauai Rep. Dee Morikawa. House of Representatives photo.

Kauai Rep. Dee Morikawa. House photo.

Morikawa said it also would be a burden on the public to hike the cost of inspections after the recent raising of other vehicle fees.

“This is hitting people deep in their pocket,” she said.

Some of those testifying say the inspections should be abolished because they don’t guarantee safer roads. Examples cited included changes made to vehicles after stickers are obtained such as adding unsafe tires or other equipment, and mechanical problems not caught during inspections.

Morikawa echoed that sentiment.

“It has come up in almost every (legislative) session that we get rid of all safety checks,” she said.

If approved as proposed, the new system would go into effect Nov. 1.

A synopsis of the rule changes can be found here, while the rules themselves with changes noted are available here.


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