As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, the state Department of Motor Vehicles is giving New Yorkers a pass on driver’s license renewals, non-driver IDs and vehicle registrations that expired after March 1.
But one area in which the state isn’t budging is on motor vehicle inspections.
If your inspection sticker expires, you have to go get an inspection.
To maintain its efforts at social isolation in order to stem the spread of the virus, the state should suspend the requirement for those drivers whose inspections expire just in the next month or two — when the worst of the epidemic is expected to pass.
If the suspension of inspections needs to be extended because of changing circumstances, the state should consider that at that time.
New Jersey, Rhode Island, Virginia and other states have already suspended the requirement for 60 days. New York should, too.
It’s easy to understand the state’s justification for requiring inspections. Inspections are there to ensure that a vehicle is safe to drive.
And much of the inspection process does involve crucial vehicle functions, including brakes, steering, front-end, suspension and chassis. An inspection could identify a safety problem that needs to be addressed.
But those problems can crop up any time during the year, not just during the arbitrary month in which your inspection expires.
Often, drivers suspect when they’re having a problem with their brakes and suspensions, simply by the behavior of the vehicle or unusual sounds and vibrations. Often, a special light comes on warning you to check that area.
If you get an inkling that your car has a safety problem, you have an obligation to yourself, your passengers and other drivers to get it looked at and repaired, whether the state requires you to or not.
But much of the inspection process includes items like lights, windshield wipers, tire tread and seatbelts — all of which drivers can and should regularly inspect on their own.
Newer vehicles will let you know that your headlight or tail-light or turn signal is out.
You can check your horn by honking it. You can evaluate your wipers by how well they clear your windshield. You can check your windshield for pings and cracks. You can check your tire tread with a penny. Stick it in the tread with Lincoln’s head down. If you can see all of his head, replace your tires.
For now, the state would only need to suspend the inspection requirements for drivers whose inspections expire in March and April. Make them all due at the end of May.
Drivers whose inspections expire in May or thereafter would still be required to meet their inspection deadlines, unless the state decides to extend them.
Assuming inspections expire in equal numbers each month, this would only affect about 17% of vehicles on the road in New York.
Why unnecessarily expose mechanics and repair-shop staff to the virus? Why make drivers go out in public and sit in repair-shop waiting rooms, where they might be exposed to it?
A temporary suspension of the vehicle inspections in New York under these special conditions is the healthy thing to do.