OLR Research Report

October 10, 2007




By: James J. Fazzalaro, Principal Analyst

You asked what states along the Atlantic seaboard require periodic safety inspections of non-commercial motor vehicles such as passenger cars. You also wanted to know what items are inspected in the states that have periodic inspections. You also asked us to characterize how frequently a vehicle's mechanical condition is found to contribute to accidents in Connecticut.


Of the 15 states on the Atlantic Seaboard, seven require annual safety inspections for passenger vehicles, three require inspections every two years, and four do not require periodic safety inspections. Maryland has limited requirements. Maryland does not have periodic safety inspections for all vehicles. Instead, it requires a safety inspection when a used vehicle is sold or ownership is otherwise transferred. Although Delaware and New Jersey require safety inspections every two years, the requirements in Delaware do not apply until a vehicle is more than five years old and the requirements in New Jersey do not apply until the vehicle is more than four years old.

Periodic safety inspection requirements appear to be slightly overrepresented in the Atlantic Seaboard states compared to the country as a whole. In general, about half of the states in the country appear to have periodic safety inspection requirements for the general vehicle population and the other half do not.

Factors contributing to accidents in Connecticut appear to be overwhelmingly behavioral (driver-related) or environmental (road or weather conditions). According to accident data compiled by the Department of Transportation, of the approximately 80,000 reported accidents that occur in Connecticut each year, mechanical failure of a vehicle is listed as a contributing factor in only about 0.7% of accidents, 0.6% of the injury-producing accidents, and 0.35% or less of the fatal accidents. Unsafe or failed vehicle tires are typically listed as a contributing circumstance in 0.35% of all accidents, 0.2% of injury-producing accidents, and 0.33% or less of fatal accidents. Thus it appears that these vehicle-related factors taken together are shown as contributing factors in only about 1% of reported accidents in Connecticut each year (Source: Connecticut Accident Facts 1996-2004).


Table 1 presents information of the 15 states for which you requested information presented from northernmost (Maine) to southernmost (Florida). The information presented deals only with non-commercial motor vehicles such as typical passenger vehicles. States may have other requirements that apply to commercial vehicles or specialty vehicles such as motorcycles and trailers.

The table identifies whether or not a state has a periodic inspection requirement and, for those that have this requirement, what vehicle components and items are inspected. Inspection items for Maryland are included even though the state does not have a periodic inspection requirement.

Table 1: Periodic Vehicle Safety Inspection Requirements in Selected States


Periodic Inspection Requirement

Inspection Items



Body components, brakes, exhaust system, glazing, horn, lights and directional signals, rearview mirrors, reflectors, running gear, safety belts (1966 and newer vehicles, steering mechanism, tires, windshield wipers, and the catalytic converter and gas filler neck restriction (1983 and newer vehicles)

New Hampshire


Wheels and tires, brakes, instruments (odometer, speedometer, reverse gear,) electrical system (horn, neutral starter safety switch, lights and headlight aim), glass and mirrors, exhaust system, fuel system, body and chassis



Brakes; muffler and exhaust system; steering and suspension; horn; glazing and windshield wiper; window tinting; lighting devices; tires; bumpers, fenders, external sheet metal, and fuel tank; vehicle height altered from manufacturer's specifications; safety belts; air bags; and fuel cap check

Rhode Island

Biennial for vehicles under 8,500 pounds; annual for vehicles over 8,500 pounds

“mechanism, brakes, and equipment” of the motor vehicle


No periodic inspection


New York


Brakes, steering mechanism, wheel alignment, lights, odometer, safety belts, vehicle identification number, and, for vehicles manufactured after August 31, 1997, the air bag system

New Jersey

Biennial, except new vehicles purchased in 2003 or later have four years from date of purchase before first inspection is required. Performed in conjunction with emissions inspection

Brakes, suspension, steering, wheel alignment, headlights, taillights, horn, tires, windshield wipers, and turn signals



Brakes, suspension, steering, tires and wheels, lighting and electrical system, glazing, mirrors, windshield washer and wipers, defroster, fuel system speedometer, odometer, exhaust system, horn and warning devices, body, and chassis


Biennial once a vehicle is more than five years old. No inspection required for first five years

Brakes, lights, glazing, mirrors, windshield wipers, hood and trunk latches, tires, doorknobs, horn, muffler and catalytic converter, fuel system leaks, bumper height, window tinting, damaged or dislocated parts projecting from body that may present a safety hazard, and hood air scoops exceeding three inches in height


Only if brought in from another state or upon change of ownership

Steering, wheel alignment, suspension, brakes, tires and wheels, fuel system, exhaust system, bumpers, fenders, lights, electrical system, mirrors, glazing, windshield wipers, hood latch, door handle latches, floor and trunk pans, speedometer, odometer, driver's seat, safety belts, motor mounts, gear shift indicator, universal and constant velocity joints, and emissions equipment



Brakes; parking brake; headlights and other vehicle lighting; signals; steering; suspension; tires, wheels and rims; mirrors; horn; windshield and other glass; windshield wipers and defroster; exhaust system; hood and under hood items such as fluid levels and belts; pollution control system; driver's seat; seat belts; airbag system; front doors; fuel system; and floor pan

North Carolina


Brakes, lights, horn, steering mechanism, windshield wipers, turn signals, tires, rearview mirrors, exhaust system, window tint

South Carolina

No periodic inspection



No periodic inspection



No periodic inspection