JEFFERSON CITY - Missourians would have to have their cars inspected less frequently under a measure given preliminary approval by the state Senate Wednesday.
The legislation will end the $7 safety inspection required yearly of most private vehicles registered in Missouri and replace it with a $21 inspection performed every three years.
John Schneider, D-Florissant, argued that fewer inspections would allow more vehicles to stay on the road when they should be in the shop.
The bill's sponsor, Senator Samuel Graves, R-Tarkio, said the current system doesn't improve safety and leaves room for abuse by inspectors.
Graves said that statistics compiled by the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the National Transportation Department confirm that inspections don't decrease the likelihood of accidents.
"We have found no correlation between safety programs and accidents," Graves said.
According to the two agencies, in states requiring regular inspections, vehicle defects caused one in every 60.5 fatal accidents. States requiring random, spot or no inspection had a ratio of one to 57.
Graves said the 3.5 point difference doesn't justify an inspection program.
The accident report also noted that Missouri had a ratio of one defect for every 94.6 vehicles involved in fatal accidents. In 1997, Missouri had 3,499 vehicles involved in fatal accidents.
Captain Gene Lacy, Director of the Highway Patrol's Motor Vehicle Inspection Division, said limiting inspections could affect the safety of Missouri drivers.
"Today people are driving older vehicles with more miles, faster, and (Graves) wants to limit inspections to every three years," Lacy said. "We may have created a formula for disaster."
Brent Butler, a lobbyist for the Missouri Insurance Coalition, said that less inspections could indirectly lead to higher costs for policy holders.
"You certainly run the risk of having some substandard vehicles on the roads," Butler said. "If you have vehicles like that out there you're likely to have more accidents,"
Graves denied this and said some people may want the program because it produces revenue.
Out of every $7 inspection fee, the State Highway Patrol gets $.25 and the State Highway department gets $.50. Lacy said last year the state collected $4.1 million in fees from the safety and emissions inspections.
"If the only reason we have this program is that it's a revenue stream, I don't see that as a reason to keep it." Graves said.
Lacy said the money goes into running several safety programs and that any left over goes into a fund for road maintenance.
"It's not really true about creating excess revenue because it stays in the state coughers," Lacy said.
The bill still faces a final vote in the Senate before it can move on to the House of Representatives.