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.

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