Assessment of Cost-Effectiveness of Pennsylvania's Automobile Safety Inspection Program

Source Organization:
University:Carnegie Mellon University
Principal Investigator:Scott Matthews
PI Contact
Project Manager:
Funding Source(s) and Amounts Provided (by each agency or organization): $59,680.00
Total Dollars:
Agency ID/Contract/Grant Number:
Start and End Dates:
Project Status:Complete
Subject Categories:
Abstract:States require inspections on vehicle safety components to be performed with varying frequencies and on various subsets of the fleet. In Pennsylvania, every passenger vehicle is inspected annually. Stakeholders have called for modifications or elimination of safety inspection programs. However, inspection data have not been available, so efforts to improve programs have been challenging.

To date (funded by PITA/NSF/UTC) we have analyzed millions of Pennsylvania vehicle inspections from the past 8 years via comprehensive datasets pertaining to safety inspections and vehicle registrations. One of these datasets is from a collaborating partner, Compuspections, a private PA company focused on IT solutions for inspection data management. While the conventional wisdom is that the failure rate is about 2%, our findings (recently submitted for publication (Peck 2014)) suggest that the actual rate is about 10 times higher. We have studied this failure rate across many dimensions: time, age of vehicles, mileage driven, urban-rural, etc. We identified the major causes for inspection failure: brakes, tires, and lights, which are routine maintenance activities.

In this next phase, we will continue to collaborate with Compuspections to receive additional data and further, to consider the cost-effectiveness of changes to the state inspection regime to maintain metrics of safety at socially acceptable levels. For example, we will consider the inspection cost tradeoffs in expected fatalities if the program were relaxed to exempt new or lightly driven cars from annual inspections. To accomplish this we will combine our analysis of failures with federal accident databases (e.g., FARS) to estimate expected changes in annual fatalities caused by various underlying failures subject to inspection (i.e., accidents caused by brake or tire failures). Additionally, we will evaluate and compare current states with annual vehicle safety inspections versus those without by comparing fatal crashes. Our goal is an unbiased study that could help inform stakeholders and the policy process in Harrisburg.

Note: Due to the sensitivity and potential political impact of our findings, we have chosen to not pursue funding or official collaboration from PennDOT (aside from permission to receive data) so as to produce an independent study. Compuspections has only provided data for this same reason.
Describe Implementation of Research Outcomes (or why not implemented):
Impacts/Benefits of Implementation (actual, not anticipated):
Project URL: