WASHINGTON-Testifying before a panel of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials, a member of the Automotive Service Association (ASA) urged the agency to provide incentives to the states for adoption of motor vehicle safety inspection programs. The April 10 public meeting-which followed similar forums in Detroit and in Indianapolis-was convened by NHTSA to solicit suggestions for regulatory reform the agency should take related to its motor vehicle regulations. It was held in support of President Clinton's order for a major overhaul of the nation's regulatory system.
According to the ASA, member Dale Opeka, of Opeka Auto Repair, McMurray, Pa., called ``the need to ensure that vehicles are properly maintained throughout their useful lives'' the most critical highway safety issue facing the nation. During testimony, he insisted that by embracing periodic motor vehicle inspections, NHTSA could render many of its existing regulations obsolete and allow states the primary responsibility of keeping highways safe.
``New vehicle safety performance standards make sense,'' he said, ``only if vehicle in-use safety performance standards are enforced by the states to ensure that these safety components remain safe.''
NHTSA Administrator Ricardo Martinez said the agency's ultimate goal is to maintain and increase the nation's level of safety on its highways while improving the relationship between regulators and those it regulates. The review, he noted, intends to meet the President's request for a regulatory system that ``costs less, meddles less and puts more responsibility in the hands of the people themselves.''
Prior to the meetings, Dr. Martinez said that while many of the nation's motor vehicle safety standards were developed more than two decades ago, ``the current consumer interest in safety has spawned new technologies and innovations in safety. Now is an excellent time for a regulatory house cleaning.''
Citing the success of vehicle safety inspection programs in reducing vehicle crashes, Bob Redding, the ASA's Washington representative, testified that the association believes those inspections should play an integral role ``and perhaps serve as the cornerstone in a reinvented NHTSA.''
Also testifying were representatives of Michelin North America and the American Automobile Manufacturers Association.