D.C. might bring back vehicle safety inspections

Local,DC,Alana Goodman

D.C. Councilman Jim Graham is considering introducing emergency legislation that would resume mandatory safety inspections for vehicles in the District after photographs of hazardously damaged cars were brought to his attention.

The D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles halted vehicle safety inspections last year, in an effort to cut costs. However, DMV maintenance employees say that some vehicles coming in to the department for the still-mandatory emissions evaluations have been in extremely poor condition.

Workers have produced at least 30 photos showing severely damaged vehicles that they say had to be allowed back on the road because they passed emissions tests. The pictures show cars with smashed rearview mirrors, broken windshields, hydraulic line leaks, and rear bumpers duct-taped into place.

"These are not safe vehicles. These vehicles should not be on the road," Graham said as he displayed the photos at a DMV oversight hearing.

The maintenance employees were prepared to testify in person at the hearing Wednesday, but their requests for an administrative leave day were denied by DMV Director Lucinda Babers, who was at the hearing. "I'm sufficient to represent the DMV," said Babers of the reason behind her denying the leave. The maintenance employees also requested an annual leave day, which was rejected by DMV officials for unspecified reasons.

Graham said that the accounts given to him by the maintenance workers, as well as the photos, were evidence that the city might need to resume mandatory safety inspections. "The point that these photographs make is the potentiality for injury, death, or accidents," he said. "These are hazardous conditions."

Babers said that studies have not shown a connection between the condition of vehicles and public safety, and that further analysis would be done by the DMV.

However, Graham said that type of study "misses the point."

"I don't think I'm willing to wait for the study," he said.

Emergency legislation introduced by Graham would most likely reprogram the budget to create funding for safety inspections, said his spokesman. The soonest the legislation would be introduced would likely be the first legislative session in early April.


Cost cutting

»  Mandatory vehicle safety inspections were halted last year under pressure from Mayor Adrian Fenty's office, which maintained that there was no correlation between the inspections and car crashes. The move was expected to save the District $400,000 at the time, but it actually ended up saving $581,000, DMV Director Lucinda Babers said.



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