Effectiveness of Vehicle Safety Inspections Neither Proven Nor Unproven

CED-78-18: Published: Dec 20, 1977. Publicly Released: Dec 20, 1977.

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Congress has a recommendation from the Department of Transportation (DOT) that it no longer require periodic motor vehicle safety inspections in accordance with federal standards as part of each state's approved highway safety program. The question of whether Congress should make safety inspections mandatory or optional in state highway programs has grown out of a decade of controversy between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and many states.

Only three states reported full compliance with the federal inspection quality standards as of July 1977. NHTSA threatened use of sanctions against state highway programs not implementing the standards led to confrontations and eventually created an atmosphere which led Congress to temporarily lift the authority to impose funding sanctions until DOT studied the adequacy and appropriateness of highway safety program standards.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Because vehicle defects can and do cause highway accidents, possibly as many as 15 percent to 25 percent, and because some types of defects, such as massive failure of brakes, could lead to serious accidents, Congress should: (1) reject the DOT recommendation which would make compliance with the federal vehicle safety inspection standards optional; (2) require the Department to modify the federal inspection standards to allow states flexibility in determining the specific type of inspection program best suited to their highway needs; and (3) direct the Department to undertake priority research into the effectiveness of periodic inspection standards for detecting and correcting vehicle defects before they lead to accidents and coordinate this research with states to help insure acceptability of its results.


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