How Does New York’s Car Inspection Suspension Affect Traffic Safety?

New York’s roads might get a little bit safer this week—if state authorities let them. An executive order issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo on March 27, suspending the requirement for annual vehicle inspections, is set to expire on October 4th. If he restores the order, New Yorkers can continue to put off their annual inspections, as hundreds of thousands already have over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Due to the March 27 order, New York’s auto repair shots “performed 739,000 fewer inspections… compared to the average over the same period the prior five years,” according to a recent report by the Democrat & Chronicle. State data shows this is about an 11% drop in inspections. Despite the order, the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles has urged drivers to get their cars inspected anyways, a spokesperson for the Department told the Democrat & Chronicle, “The DMV encourages New Yorkers to have their vehicles inspected if they are past due… The DMV is notifying customers who have an expired inspection or driver license that they are due for renewal and we are providing details on the ways in which they can renew.”

According to the Democrat & Chronicle, there are currently 10.5 million vehicles registered in New York, indicating that plenty of New Yorkers took the DMV’s recommendation and got their cars inspected. The Democrat & Chronicle notes as well that the decrease in inspections can also be attributed to regular fluctuations in inspection figures, as well as a general decrease in cars on the road due to the pandemic. New York is one of a few states to require regular car inspections, and there are about 10,000 licensed inspectors in the state, per the report. Authorities designated them as essential businesses early in the pandemic, allowing them to remain open. Still, they suffered “between a 30% and 60% drop in businesses from March to June,” partly due to the suspension of the inspection rule.

As one expert told the Democrat & Chronicle, the suspension may lead to an increase in unsafe vehicles on New York’s roads. Wayne Bombardiere, a director of New York’s Association of Service Stations and Repair Shops, said: “You’ve got six months worth of cars that haven’t been inspected that should have been inspected, and who knows what kind of danger those cars are right now… There could be some that are dangerous and some that are routine inspections… If our businesses are open and functioning, there’s no reason people couldn’t get their car inspected.”

If Governor Cuomo rescinds the suspension, experts expect it will take time for auto shops to prepare for the “influx of customers,” according to the Democrat & Chronicle. As Bombardiere told the publication, “If he announced today that everyone would have to be renewed by the end of the month, that would be tough. I don’t know if the industry can handle it that fast.” It remains unclear whether the suspension will stay in effect.

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