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Effort to Kill State Vehicle Safety Inspections Advances in Texas Senate

Texas senators voted 20-11 in favor of ending vehicle safety inspections, but a senate amendment would delay the end of the program until 2025


The Texas Senate voted Sunday night to advance a bill that would kill vehicle safety inspections. But, an amendment added to the bill would push back the end of inspections by two years, until 2025.

Some Republican lawmakers have tried for years to shut down the state’s inspection program, saying inspections are an inconvenience to drivers and do not improve road safety.

On the floor of the Senate Sunday, Sen. Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas) urged his colleagues to keep inspections, saying lives are at stake. Johnson pointed to a new American Society of Civil Engineers study that found inspection programs have reduced car crash deaths across the country.

“It found that states that have vehicle safety inspections have 5.5% fewer fatalities per year than states that don't have inspection programs. In Texas that's 261 dead people every single year,” Johnson said.

But with a 20-11 vote the Senate opted to end inspections. 

The amended bill now goes back to the House for consideration.

Even if Texas eliminates safety inspections, drivers in major urban areas like the large DFW counties would still need annual emissions inspections which are mandated under federal rules.

As lawmakers have debated the effectiveness of inspections, a monthslong NBC 5 Investigation has raised bigger questions about whether it's even possible to evaluate the program’s effectiveness because, as our reporting has shown, the program is riddled with fraud.

Our reporting exposed widespread cheating by inspection shops, falsely passing cars in exchange for cash, according to law enforcement authorities.

One team of investigators in Travis County told NBC 5 Investigates they believe as many as five million cars on Texas roads had fake inspections.

“Vehicle was never there, they never checked insurance on it, nothing,” said Sgt. Jose Escribano who heads a special vehicle fraud investigation unit with the Travis County Constables, Precinct 3.

That fraud infuriates legitimate shop owners and leaves some wondering if the effectiveness of inspections has been undercut by cheating.

“So, yeah, how good is the data that we have at that point?” said Greg Cole who heads the Texas Vehicle Inspection Association, which represents state-licensed shops and inspectors statewide.

The Texas Department of Public Safety has vowed to crack down on fake inspections in the wake of the NBC 5 investigation. 

The DPS director has promised to work with the state’s Commission on Environmental Quality to shore up loopholes in the state's emissions inspection computer system that make it easier for inspectors to get away with issuing fake passing inspection reports.

But, in the legislature, some have argued cheating is just another reason to kill the program entirely.

“Until you give me the solution of how to get rid of the fraud and abuse that is rampant across the state with fake inspections, then my opinion is the why do we have the inspections at all,” Rep. Goldman (R-Fort Worth) said in an April interview. Goldman is a sponsor of the inspection-ending bill the Senate approved Sunday night.

Even if the inspections go away, the state will still get your money. The current bill would simply convert the $7.50 inspection fee the state collects to a new charge drivers would pay when they register their cars.

Lawmakers and legislative staffers who support eliminating inspections told NBC 5 Investigates the state must continue to collect the fees because the money goes to the state mobility fund which finances transportation projects and lawmakers don't want the fund to be impacted if inspections are eliminated.

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