Car Inspections and “Why Do We Live in This State?”


For various personal reasons, an older gentleman of my acquaintance cut his car inspection too close, and I’d encourage my fellow Rhode Islanders similarly to live on the edge every now and then for perspective on what our government’s political philosophy really is.

While there was still time remaining on the older gentleman’s inspection sticker, a light on his dashboard that indicated that (probably) something was wrong with one of the sensors in his exhaust system.  A trustworthy mechanic told him that it had to do with the car company’s combination of two materials for a screw and a canister that didn’t do well in the New England atmosphere.  This would allow some little bit of air into the system (or something) and trip the warning light.  With various things going on in his life, my acquaintance wasn’t sure if he wanted to jump through the hurdles of fixing the car or get a new one or what.  He drives the vehicle so infrequently, after all.

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In the meantime, a threatening letter arrived in the mail informing him that his registration would expire at 11:59 p.m. on September 4, 2018, in the absence of an inspection.  The summer progressed a bit.  Then the trustworthy mechanic was on vacation.  But with a week to go, the canister was replaced (at significant cost), and the mechanic advised that it might take a few days for the car to pass its computerized tests, because the system is designed to catch people who just reset the lights and go straight for inspections.

A holiday intervened, and then the morning of the inspection, yesterday, another light came on indicating that something was wrong with an airbag or a seat belt or just some sensor attached to one of those devices, and the car would not pass inspection for safety reasons.  This means that the DMV cannot, by law, give an extension of the sticker (as it could for environmental reasons) even to get the gentleman through his Friday car appointment and Monday inspection.

So:  The state of Rhode Island has decided that nobody living within the boundaries of its rule can be trusted to assess the risk to themselves of driving vehicles in which the modern safety measures might not be working properly.  Thus, under the law, unlucky timing with a warning light requires the older gentleman to have his perfectly drivable car towed to the trustworthy mechanic and then to an inspection station because he might be at slightly elevated risk of injury if he gets into an accident somewhere in the space of that five-mile drive.

What’s more, the car inspector noted that the law currently calls for people who allow their registration to lapse for this very reason to pay a $250 fee to reinstate it, although our politicians decided that an election year was not the time to begin collecting. “Why do we live in this state?,” the older gentleman asked me.

Now multiply this political philosophy — that the laws should impose significant costs of money and stress on people for their own good — across every area of life that government touches, which is rapidly becoming every area of life.  I’ve heard the older gentleman’s question all the time for many years, often from people who have looked for and found opportunities to move.

I usually suggest to them that a better question is, “Why do we let these people govern us?”  Unfortunately, too many people truly believe that we have no choice, in Rhode Island, and now, with the surging of progressives, things are on track to get worse.

If only there were warning lights on our government, that would require that lumbering machine to remain in the State House parking lot while human sensors like the older gentleman are screaming.

ADDENDUM:  Keep in mind, too, the warning that these experiences give us of life under a progressive government that also has computerized tracking systems.  An update of the DMV’s computer system is what enabled the implementation of advance notice for registration suspension and fees.  Technology in the cars is what allows an inspector to know whether the lights were just reset.  Internet connectivity is what allows all of these systems to interact in real time and be checked on the road by police officers.

Moreover, with every step along the way captured and transmitted, the ability of anybody to use common sense.  The only judgment allowed comes when the legislature imposes a rule and the bureaucracy defines the regulations.  This means it’s increasingly imperative for us to understand the complex consequences across society of every decision government makes — every boundary that it sets for how we live our lives.  That goes not only for new laws that our legislature might pass, but also for the application of laws implemented before modern computers were imagined. Technology has taken away the shock absorbers of human judgment.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    Once again, I am short of a link. But my understanding is that many, if not most, states have eliminated “inspections”. The reason being that “safety” items are involved to few accidents to justify the cost. It should also be noted that “check engine lights”, 99% of time indicate a failure in the “environmental systems” and are not safety related. My further understanding is that many states retain the “inspections” because acceptance of federal “highway funds” requires it.

    An anecdote of my own. I lived in Florida while they still required “inspections”. They have since been eliminated. I had a new Porsche. it failed the “brake test”. Imagine that, a new Porsche that had “insufficient” brakes. The only cure was to register it “out of state” and avoid the “inspection”. They had some system where the car was placed on spinning rollers. applying the brakes, in my case, caused the car to be thrown off the rollers because the wheels were locked. So, it “failed”. In those days, Porsches had zero rust protection, and 5 year lifetimes. That might have been worth checking. I had friends with older Porsches who applied the brakes and found the wheels and suspension torn from the car because the components mounting them to the “chassis” had rusted into oblivion. I understand that currently, in Massachusetts, a rust hole in the body results in a failed inspection. Massachusetts is now requiring video taping of inspections to insure “honesty”. When I lived in Massachusetts I failed because of inoperable “fog lights” “All lights supplied by the manufacturer” had to operate. Since fog lights were optional equipment, the inspector and I agreed that if I removed the fog lights, I could pass.

    PS, as noted, most check engine lights result from a failed component in the environmental system, but do not effect everyday operation of the car. They are typically very expensive components. So, imagine you have a 12 year old car that operates normally but the CEL is on. The repair is $1,200 and the car has nearly reached the end of it’s normal operating life, how much “pollution” can it produce in it’s remaining lifetime?. What do you do, “junking the car” is a viable option.

  • Komrade Katz

    Call me a commie, but if “Big Brother” and “government overreach”, allows me to know the other driver’s on the road have operating breaking systems color me red.

    • Rhett Hardwick

      I don’t know of any other state, other than Florida, which checks brakes. And, obviously from my post, their test was faulty.

  • BasicCaruso

    “…and ‘Why Do We Live in This State?'”

    I ask myself that question about the RICFP employees all the time.

  • Mike678

    Must be a slow day on RIF if the trolls need to comment here….

  • The Misfit

    Do you really think the overly aggressive administration of the vehicle inspection system is caused by a progressive bias? In this state? Where most of the Democratic leadership would pass for the most arch conservative Republican party members if they existed in any state other than this one? You would gain much more credibility if you simply stated the problem without the political agenda. Maybe that is impossible for you to do. While I can agree with your complaint I find your thinking that this is some sort of progressive plot to be even more deranged than what Trump is doing with his scatter gun fake news nonsense

    • Rhett Hardwick

      Do a search on the number of states that have gotten rid of “inspections” lately. See how many are blue states. It may not be cause, but is it coincidence?

    • Justin Katz

      Your inquiry is justifiable, although the phrase “progressive bias” suggests that you miss my point. I would assert that it is fundamentally a progressive impulse to use government to save people from themselves. I’d also suggest that your notion that a state government pervaded with this impulse is actually conservative is a good indication that you’re using “progressive” as a relative designation for the most-leftward group rather than an objective assessment founded in historical trends.

    • Chip

      Our President should call it what it is-propaganda. It is propaganda that only ill-educated and unsophisticated people would swallow.