GAO looks at costs, benefits of state safety inspection programs

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) said Tuesday that it recently conducted a study to determine the costs and benefits of state vehicle safety inspection programs.

The GAO held interviews with officials of 15 state vehicle safety inspection programs and determined that the programs improved the safety of vehicles in those states. However, the GAO said it is more difficult to determine the costs and benefits of these programs.

State officials told the GAO that these inspections help them locate vehicles that have safety problems. These vehicles can then be repaired and returned to the road, or they can be removed, protecting other drivers and vehicles from unsafe situations on the road.

One example is Pennsylvania. In 2014, Pennsylvania had over 529,000 vehicles, or 20 percent of the vehicles located in that state, fail inspections. All of these were successfully repaired and returned to the roads.

Nationwide estimates from data gathered from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a branch of the Department of Transportation, indicated that vehicle component failure was a factor in approximately 2 percent to 7 percent of vehicle crashes.

Because this is such a small percentage, and because there is heightened application and enforcement of state traffic safety laws, which may also impact crash rates, officials had a hard time identifying the costs and benefits of inspection programs in the U.S.

Also making it difficult to assess the cost and benefits of the state programs was the fact that many states do not directly track the costs of operating safety inspection programs because costs may be included with other inspection programs, such as emissions

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