KEATING signs bill ending vehicle inspections

Wednesday, May 23rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma's vehicle inspection program ended Wednesday with a signature by Gov. Frank Keating, who warned that motorists who drive cars with bald tires or burned out headlights could still be cited for having an unsafe vehicle.

A bill abolishing the program was signed by Keating on May 1. But the measure wasn't scheduled to go into effect until Aug. 25 _ 90 days after final passage by the Legislature.

The measure signed Wednesday makes repeal of the 31-year-old inspection program immediate. It also eliminates all but $1 of the annual $5 inspection fee.

The $1 fee is collected by the state and will be added to motorists' tag fees to be paid when the tag is renewed each year, effective July 1. The money buys new highway patrol vehicles and helps finance the state trooper retirement system and the general revenue fund.

Public Safety Commissioner Bob Ricks said his agency requested the program's immediate abolition to avoid confusion among motorists over whether they should renew expired inspection stickers prior to the repeal's effective date.

``The confusion arose also in enforcement,'' Ricks said. Many law enforcement agencies said they would use discretion in enforcing the statute, but others said they planned to enforce it vigorously.

``We thought it was unfair to the citizens of Oklahoma,'' Ricks said.

Oklahoma began its vehicle inspection program to comply with a federal mandate that has since been repealed. Oklahoma was one of only 13 states that required annual vehicle inspections.

Opponents of the program said it created hardships for motorists, especially in rural areas, who were forced to wait in long lines to get their vehicles inspected by a shrinking number of inspectors.