Safety violation citations up 3% since safety inspections disappeared

Cars are still required to be safe, but without safety inspections, the job falls to law enforcement to write tickets when they see dangerous things, like cracked windshields. (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) — Times are lean for Shawn Hewitson and his business, Glasshopper. He says the windshield repair business is down about 25 percent in Utah since the beginning of 2018.

That’s when the state did away with required safety inspections on our cars in order to get them registered. Big cracks that block a driver’s view, considered safety violations, drove business to glass-fix-it shops as a car’s tags were set to expire — or after such a crack caused a vehicle to fail inspections.

Not anymore.

Hewitson says he's not just worried about his bottom line, he's worried about public safety. There is a reason having a cracked windshield is considered unsafe — and is illegal.

"Your windshield is part of your airbags, how they deploy and everything,” he said. “The structural integrity of your car, if it rolls over — it's all safety."

State representative Lee Perry (R-Box Elder) was initially against getting rid of safety inspections. In the end, he voted for the measure. Still, he thinks people are mixed up about what the law change really means.

"My concern is the public misinterpreted what came out of the legislature," Perry said. "We passed the law, and the public took the perception of, ‘Ahhh! I don't have to do anything to my car! I can drive a piece of crap car!’ Which is not the case."

Cars are still required to be safe, but without safety inspections, the job falls to law enforcement to write tickets when they see dangerous things, like cracked windshields. Perry, who is also a state trooper, says that's a good thing because drivers are compelled to fix their cars when they break, rather than up to a year later when facing the car’s registration deadline.

"We don't write warnings anymore. We write 'fix-it' tickets," he said, "just like the old safety inspection, they have got to fix the problem," he said.

It’s a premise that requires citations be written to fill the void and motivate drivers. Public records show that equipment violation citations are up a mere 3 percent in the time since the law was passed.

Representative Daniel McCay (R-Riverton), who sponsored the bill axing mandatory safety inspections, continues to defend the law.

“We want to be making a difference where it actually matters," he said.

He says Utah was one of only 16 states nationwide that still required safety inspections and that the other states were not less safe.

McCay also says that, so far, Utah hasn't seen an increase in fatal or serious accidents since the new law went into effect.

"We did not see a change at all in the number of people that are dying as a result of vehicle failure on the highways," McCay said.

McCay says that 25 percent more cracked windshields on the road is not concerning to him.

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