Lawmakers respond to KSL 5 TV story that called for the return of mandatory vehicle safety inspections

Feb 25, 2019, 3:07 PM | Updated: 3:11 pm

Utah Highway Patrol accident scene...

Since mandatory vehicle safety inspections were repealed, a KSL 5 TV report says, safety ticket violations have skyrocketed. But the lawmakers who supported the bill, say that fact doesn't tell the whole story. (Photo: Utah Highway Patrol)

(Photo: Utah Highway Patrol)

A KSL 5 TV investigative report into the effects of mandatory vehicle safety inspections has ruffled feathers up on Capitol Hill, with lawmakers and lobbyists saying that it left out their side of the story.

The report called for the return of the mandatory inspections, pointing primarily to a 43 percent increase in the number of safety violation tickets handed out by Utah Highway Patrol officers since the law was repealed.

Some of the lawmakers and lobbyists who pushed the bill in 2017 felt that the investigative piece left out key details about why mandatory vehicle safety inspections were eliminated in the first place.

In the interest of showing both sides of every story, KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic invited some of those dissenting voices onto their show to share their responses to the report.

Utah Highway Patrol’s Col. Mike Rapich, Libertas Institute’s Connor Boyack, Sen. Todd Weiler, and Rep. Dan McCay all called in to explain their take on the story.

KSL TV’s investigative report

KSL Investigates original report, which was hosted by Debbie Dujanovic, got its spark of inspiration when producer Mark Stevens noticed that the Utah Highway Patrol’s twitter account was tweeting more and more posts that blamed crashes on bald tires.

“I’ve seen UHP actually do safety advocacy,” Stevens says, “but to see them actually out vehicle equipment – I was thinking, ‘Well, what’s going on?”

Stevens started looking into what had changed. He says that, when he discovered the 43 percent bump in the number of safety violations tickets handed out by the UHP, he knew he had a story worth telling.

He and his team contacted UHP Lt. Col Mark Zesiger, who confirmed that, since the law was repealed, the UHP has seen “an increase in the number of vehicles that are either crashing, slide-offs, or they’re having a hard time getting up the ramp.”

Mechanics joined the conversation, as well, sharing horror stories about customers who were unable to tell that their tire treads were thread thin and shared videos and photos of some of the most dangerous vehicles that have rolled into their shops.

The KSL Investigates teams also learned that, though $2.6 million was allocated toward the UHP with instructions to use the money to hire more staff, the UHP had yet to increase the number of troopers on their force.

Instead, it had just increased the number of tickets handed out; tickets that, Steven says, can result in hefty penalties that the safety inspections didn’t carry.

“You [can] get a warrant for your arrest,” Stevens says, explaining what would happen if someone didn’t pay their ticket. “Seems pretty excessive for what could be a potential headlight out.”

Utah Highway Patrol’s increased role in vehicle safety

UHP Col. Mike Rapich

Col. Mike Rapich says that the UHP was asked to play a bigger role in getting dangerous vehicles off the roads. (Photo: KSL TV)

According to UHP Col. Mike Rapich, however, that spark of inspiration – the increased number of UHP tweets talking about bald tired damage – isn’t just a coincidence. It’s a deliberate decision made by the department.

“We’re highlighting crashing contributors,” Rapich explained. The tweets Stevens saw, he says, are part of what he calls the departments’ “aggressive public outreach campaign” to keep people conscious of the safety failures that could cause accidents.

“[We’re] making sure we’ve got that in people’s minds,” Rapich says. “You have to have good tires, you have to have your glass in place, your lights need to work correctly.”

The bill that eliminated mandatory public safety inspections, Rapich explained, replaced those inspections with an enforcement-based platform that asked the UHP to crack down on unsafe vehicles on Utah’s highways.

That new bill, Rapich confirmed, did allocate $2.6 million per year toward the UHP. However, he says that it didn’t require them to use the money to hire new staff.

As the department had hired an abnormally large number of people the year before, Rapich says, the UHP decided to put the money toward making sure that the officers had the safety inspection equipment they needed to complete their new role instead.

Sen. Todd Weiler argued that the fact that the UHP was asked to enforce safety violations is a key point. Their increase in safety violation tickets, he says, doesn’t mean that there are actually more dangerous vehicles on our roads.

“The reason that the citations has gone up is because that’s what we asked UHP to do,” Weiler says. ”We asked them to up the enforcement to people who are breaking the law.”

Weiler and McCay alike both took that a step forward and claimed that, because of UHP’s increased attention to vehicle safety issues, Utah’s roads have actually become safer since mandatory vehicle safety inspections were eliminated.

Weiler, apparently contradicting Lt. Col Mark Zesiger’s statement on KSL TV, said that the number of equipment failure accidents has actually gone down since safety inspections were repealed.

KSL Newsradio has asked UHP to confirm this claim. At this time, we are still waiting on the response.

The effects of mandatory vehicle safety inspections

Mandatory Vehicle Safety Inspections

Mechanics work on a car at Matson Auto & Marine Service in Riverton, Utah, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. (Photo: KSL TV)

“There was a lot of conversation and a lot of data that went into [the mandatory vehicle safety inspection repeal],” Connor Boyack of the Libertas Institute, who worked on the bill, says. “That was omitted from that report.”

One of the key arguments that persuaded lawmakers to get rid of the mandatory inspections, Boyack says, was a study by a group Brigham Young University students, who showed that, in other states that have repealed safety inspections, there has been no statistically significant increase in vehicle safety-related accidents.

“90 percent of these crashes we see on the road are not due to the vehicle,” Boyack says. “They’re due to driver error.”

35 states have repealed the law so far, Weiler pointed out, and not a single one of those states have brought them back.

“People in other states are doing the same job maintaining their cars as we are that don’t have a safety inspection,” McCay told Dave & Dujanovic, throwing his support behind that argument. “What that tells you is there is no need for a safety inspection.”

Without any proof that the law was making a difference, Boyack says: “There really was no justification to continue the program.”

The debate over mandatory vehicle safety inspections, McCay says, is nothing new. He says that it first started in the 1940s, and that it took decades for states to actually start repealing these laws.

The increased number of safety violation tickets uncovered by KSL 5 TV, he believes, isn’t enough to prove that our states needs to bring the inspections back.

“If, after we’ve done this for 10 years, we see fatalities increase significantly as a result of vehicle failure, then absolutely, I think we ought to look at it,” McCay says. “But … it should take years and years of data analysis for us to come back to that conclusion.”

The bill that repealed the inspections, McCay says, was a good law. He suggested, however, that the good it has done would never get as much attention as the bad, quipping: “Good policy doesn’t make good stories.”

More to the story

The debate over mandatory vehicle safety inspections, McCay says, has an almost religious fervor to it.

He and Dave & Dujanovic’s other guests added depth and insight to the discussion. If you missed the show live, you can still hear the full debate and get a deeper understanding of the issue by listening to the Dave & Dujanovic podcast.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio. Users can find the show on the KSL Newsradio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

affordable care act

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Dave & Dujanovic

Image of four monolithic domes in Genola, Utah County, designed by Leland Gray and built as a facil...

Curt Gresseth

As some Utah school populations dwindle, could dome schools help?

The idea of dome schools was born in Utah but only one Utah town has them. Could they help more school districts and communities?

1 day ago

FILE - The Instagram app icon on the screen of a mobile device. With an eye on testing the Reels al...

Simone Seikaly

Instagram algorithm test “is scary,” says Utah state senator

Utah State Senator Mike McKell said Instagram's algorithm isn't alone in helping to target users for unsafe content.

2 days ago

are you doom spending?...

Curt Gresseth

Are you ‘doom spending’?

What is doom spending? A KSL NewsRadio producer describes her experience with — and motivation for — reckless buying.

5 days ago

9/11 flag at salt lake 2002 opening ceremony. Winter Games...

Curt Gresseth

As SLC steps closer to hosting 2034 Winter Games, a security expert looks back at 2002

Salt Lake City steps closer to hosting its second Winter Olympics in 2034. A security expert reflects on the lessons learned from the SLC's 2002 Winter Games.

6 days ago

emergency savings account...

Curt Gresseth

Should employers match an emergency-savings account for employees?

A Utah financial planner outlines a new law allowing an emergency-savings account, with a matching employer contribution.

7 days ago

celeste maloy, the newest member of congress...

Sam Herrera

Celeste Maloy sworn into Congress a week after special election win

Congresswoman Celeste Maloy was sworn in to Congress Tuesday night, but she had already started her work in the days following the special election in Utah.

8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Human hand holding a protest banner stop vaping message over a crowded street background....

Prosperous Utah Communities

Utah’s Battle to Protect Youth from Vaping Epidemic Faces New Threat as Proposed Rule Threatens Progress

Utah's strict standards of nicotine levels in vaping products are at risk, increasing health hazards associated with use. Read more about how you can advocate for a better future for Utah's youth.

Aerial photo of Bear Lake shoreline with canopies and people camped out on the beach...

Visit Bear Lake

Last-Minute Summer Vacation Planning? Check Out Bear Lake!

Bear Lake is the perfect getaway if you are last-minute summer vacation planning. Enjoy activities with your whole family at this iconic lake.

Lawmakers respond to KSL 5 TV story that called for the return of mandatory vehicle safety inspections