By Ted Shockley

An area man has appealed to the state for improvements to Virginia’s vehicle inspection system, which he said is “broken” and provides little financial incentive for automotive service centers that provide annual safety inspections.

“It is easier to get a colonoscopy than it is to get a vehicle inspection in Virginia,” Cape Charles resident Stephen K. Fox told Virginia State Police Division Capt. Ron Maxey in an email.

Fox, an attorney, called the annual inspection process “burdensome to the public” and said the $20 charged for vehicle inspections by service centers “does not compare well to what the mechanic can earn performing other repair work.”

The Eastern Shore of Virginia has 20 automotive shops that are certified inspection stations and there are 4,333 statewide. An additional station, Adams Auto Repair on Chincoteague Island, will begin offering vehicle inspections on Wednesday, Sept. 18.

Chincoteague recently has had no inspection stations. Further, there are no accurate online lists of inspection stations — the state police website states that the status of the stations changes daily.

“You should not have to leave a car all day at an inspection shop to get something which is required, especially in an area with limited transportation alternatives,” Fox said. 

Fox said he also has been told that service stations are regulated as to how many inspections they can perform in an hour. But Maxey said state laws do not regulate the number of vehicles that can be inspected during a period of time. 

However, Maxey said, “Our troopers investigate inspection-related matters, and through interviews and observations can determine if improper or cursory inspections are being performed.”

Maxey said the cost of inspections increased to $20, up from $16, after the General Assembly “found that the time and labor involved in the performance of a proper vehicle inspection justified” an increase.

State Delegate Robert Bloxom, whose 100th District includes the Eastern Shore and who owns auto repair and supply businesses, was in favor of the $4 increase, which went into effect July 1. A Washington Post article quoted Bloxom acknowledging that he didn’t like higher fees, but vehicle inspectors were leaving the program because of the low revenue.

Fox said he would ask the Eastern Shore Bar Association to make a statement on the issue “since the lawyer members are involved in prosecuting and defending persons charged with operating uninspected vehicles.”

“The Commonwealth has the laws and regulations in place for the system, but it does not have the outlets available to get it done without an undue investment of time on the part of the citizens,” Fox said.