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Monday, May 28, 2012

Why politics stinks

North Carolina continues its annual safety inspections of automobiles despite the lack of any statistical evidence that the program reduces property damage, personal injury, or death compared to states that have no inspection program. In essence, the program is North Carolina's recurring gift to garage owners. Just about every car owner has an anecdote of being hassled by a revenue-hungry provider of inspections. The last time I had one of my cars inspected, I was strong-armed into buying wiper blades -- which had much more to do with the profits of the garage than any safety issue.

The most ridiculous aspect of inspections is that a nearly new car must be inspected like any other, even though (here it comes again) there is no statistical evidence that nearly new cars develop safety problems within the first 12 months of operation. Brake linings don't wear that quickly, tail light bulbs don't burn out that quickly, etc.

Exempting nearly new cars from safety inspections would be a small step in the correct direction. Nevertheless, the North Carolina General Assembly -- in a vote that split parties -- has opted not to eliminate safety inspections on nearly new cars. Read the sordid story here.

How did this happen? Political lobbying by a special interest group, in this case the garage owners. They don't have millions of dollars to throw around; at the level of state politics, a small amount of money and a good lobbyist is all that's required.