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Unchecked dangers: Citations up 2 years after end to mandatory safety inspections

By Brittany Glas, KSL TV | Posted - Feb. 13, 2020 at 7:06 a.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — Two years have passed since the Utah State Legislature eliminated mandatory safety inspections for most passenger vehicles. KSL Investigators first uncovered a rise in unsafe vehicle tickets last year, following the end to those inspections.

As current data indicates, the trend remains on the rise.

Court records revealed the number of citations issued to motorists for unsafe vehicles jumped another 43% the past year, meaning since 2017 — the last year the state required safety inspections — Utah has seen a 105% overall increase in those tickets.

When lawmakers voted and passed the measure to eliminate mandatory vehicle safety inspections in 2017, law enforcement officers soon realized the role of catching unsafe cars on Utah roads.

The law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

Feb. 2020 snow storms and slide-offs

Just last week, Utah Highway Patrol troopers investigated nearly 933 crashes. In 24 of those accidents, bald tires were at fault and drivers were issued tickets.

According to the Utah Highway Safety Office at the Department of Public Safety, since 2016, UHP troopers have seen an increase in the number of crashes that caused property damage only wherein “tires” were a contributing circumstance.

In 2019, bad tires were involved in over 200 more crashes than were involved in 2018.

“We did see quite a rise in property damage crashes where tires were a contributing factor,” said UHP Sergeant Nick Street.

Photo: KSL TV

The agency’s theory behind what caused the increase?

“We believe that rise is simply because we’ve trained more officers throughout the state to be mindful of looking at someone’s tire tread following a property damage crash. Now we always did that when it came to serious injury crashes and fatal crashes. We always did a post vehicle inspection and checked tire tread in those circumstances,” Street said.

In fact, he said UHP troopers have actually seen a decline in both injury crashes and fatalities where tire violations were contributing factors.

Troopers noted the 2019 data provided is preliminary.

Utah Highway Patrol Sergeant Nick Street. Photo: KSL TV

However, it is important to mention troopers cannot see what mechanics can when that vehicle is on the lift. This includes things found under the hood of a car and includes everything from a suspension system to the brakes.

Hillside Tire & Service reflects on importance of safety inspections

Tom Babcock manages Hillside Tire and Service in Cottonwood Heights. The locally-owned mechanic shop has replaced its fair share of bald tires since it opened its doors.

“Their tires aren’t thick enough in tread or not good enough, or they got too close to the shoulder and they went through that slush and lost control,” Babcock said, describing recent accidents involving bald tires.

The past couple of years, Babcock said he’s seen tires coming in for replacement have been in progressively worse condition. Babcock believes the state doing away with safety inspections is to blame for that.

Tom Babcock of Hillside Tire & Service. Photo: KSL TV

“It’s definitely unsafe and not so much unsafe for the driver, as much as other people on the road, as well,” he said.

And, as long as inspections aren’t required, Babcock said drivers will continue to wait even longer to fix potentially dangerous problems.

“They’re not being monitored anymore,” he said. “It’ll probably just obviously get worse and worse and worse until, you know, the state brings it back.”

In a committee meeting on Jan. 31, Rep. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, who sponsored the 2017 legislation, maintained vehicle inspections actually made Utah roads less safe.

“For the two to five to six months when they noticed a problem, [people] just waited until the safety inspection to get it done,” McCay said.

Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Visit KSLInvestigates.com to submit your tip, so we can get working for you. You ask. KSL investigates.

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