Target 9 Investigation: Should Ohio require vehicle inspections?

Unlike W.Va. and Pa., Ohio does not require vehicle inspections, and officials say that's not likely to change soon. (WTOV)

"I think the biggest issue with the Ohio cars is, and I say this tongue in cheek, they drive junk," says Brooke County Sheriff Chuck Jackson.

Many drivers in West Virginia and Pennsylvania and even police have wondered how Ohio drivers get away with driving cars that appear unsafe.

We're talking about mandatory vehicle inspections. They're required in other states, but not Ohio.

"If you see a car coming and it's just a rattletrap or has fenders with duct tape on it, that car is from Ohio. I don't even have to look at the plate to know that," Sheriff Jackson said.

In West Virginia, drivers have to get their vehicles inspected. It's mandatory and managed by the state police. It costs drivers $10 per year and most don't seem to mind.

"I want to have my car inspected. I want people to see that my car is inspected. It's not just living in the law. It's just a common sense thing to do. You don't want to send your wife or children out in a car that has bad brakes," Jackson said.

Pennsylvania also requires inspections, and a recent study there found that the safety inspection program saves 187 lives each year.

"I can't imagine that not contributing to traffic crashes. Most crashes are human error, but you have a lot that are equipment related," Jackson said.

In Ohio, police are the only ones holding drivers accountable.

"As part of our duties, day in and day out, troopers are constantly looking for unsafe equipment on a vehicle. When we initiate a traffic stop, regardless of the reason, we are looking at tires, lights, windshield, all parts of the vehicle to make sure it is safe to be on the roadway," said Lt. James Faunda, Ohio State Highway Patrol.

But can officers be the best judge, and is it fair to ask them to do that?

Some think yes, but others disagree.

"Even though Ohio doesn't have a mandatory inspection process like other states, we do random inspections with our MVI teams. Officers are aware of the vehicles that could cause harm to the public as far as causing a crash," Lt. Faunda said.

"I can't tell how worn someone's brakes are. You could have a three-year-old car that is badly in need of brakes. This is what the inspection program does," Jackson said.

Ohio legislators including local Representative Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) say it's an issue that's never really been raised. But when push comes to shove, Cera acknowledges he's not thrilled with the condition of some of the vehicles he sees on the roads.

"It has caught my eye, when you see cars without bumpers and doors falling off. We would have to be careful on the standards," Rep. Cera said.

Cera says state officials would be hesitant and unlikely to push for mandatory vehicle inspections due to the economic climate and the lack of any real data attributing crashes to unsafe vehicles.

"For us in this state it's a difficult thing. Working families have it hard enough and to put that extra cost on them to operate their vehicle would be difficult," Rep. Cera said.

"The number of crashes we handle that we can attribute to an unsafe vehicle are very small actually. Usually it has to do with poor tires," Lt. Faunda said.

Officials with the Ohio State Highway Patrol say that one-third of all stops are for unsafe vehicles. Regardless, it doesn't appear as though changes will come anytime soon.

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