Published Date Written by Bob HigginsSince I got rid of the van about a year and a half ago, the one that didn't have its state paperwork in order ("My Van Is Not An Illegal Alien"), I've been looking around for a replacement, something like an old box truck or a van that might be turned into a good summer camper.
In my price range, what is available falls into the category where, when asking if the vehicle has a "sticker," the response is a mixture of laughter, and a blank stare that makes you think the person is waiting for a unicorn horn to suddenly sprout from my head.
Most every vehicle I've ever owned has been on its last state mandated safety sticker, including the 1978 Chevy Chevette I sold to a dude for $400. He put a new muffler and tires on it, found a station that gave some leeway on inspections, and continued to drive it safely.
For TEN YEARS. Then he sold it back to me for the same $400.
Truth be told, most of the vehicles I've owned would have failed for minor rust. Try as I might, I just can't seem to understand how a rusted side door makes a vehicle unsafe. If you start talking to me about "structural integrity" of the vehicle, you'll get the unicorn look.
Lights work, horn work, blinkers work (that nobody in this state uses anyway), brakes work ... that should about sum it up. It is not my responsibility, nor anyone else's in this state to keep auto parts store owners corpulent and complacent.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine took her car to one of the locals for inspection. They quoted her a bill of $1,600 to bring the car up to state code, sliced her sticker, told her she couldn't legally even leave the lot, and if she did, they were going to call the police.
That happens a lot with this company. A LOT.
She had another friend that was a member of the State Police go over the punch list. His verdict was that they "might have been a bit aggressive" on some of the more expensive items.
Not just here and now, but clearly, the Maine Motor Vehicle Inspection Program has been broken badly for years. I'm gathering some more stories to present to legislators here in Maine, along with several proposed changes.
Citing data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report to Congress, 93 percent of vehicle accidents were caused by driver distraction. Look real hard at that number. That is folks adjusting the radio, fiddling with their hair, eating, texting, or talking to a passenger.
Slap any sticker you want to on a car, its not going to change the fact that those folks are just plain stupid. First offense, license gone for a year. Second, LIFE. If you're driving a ton of metal at 65 miles per hour, you better be paying attention.
To get around that whole "we're going to slice your sticker to sell you a thousand bucks in parts and labor you don't need" scenario, the answer came to me from an anonymous poster on a rant board a while back.
Change the law. If a station fails your vehicle and cuts the sticker, they CANNOT do the repair work ... at any price.
Just that one change would make some of those "aggressive" judgement calls suddenly flop the other direction. You, as a vehicle owner, would be more likely to get a shorter punch list of repairs that would certify the vehicle as "safe" under the laws of this state. You also would likely be told that this inspection didn't really count, feel free to see if you can get the work done at a later date, and that sticker would still be on your car, minus the voiding slice.
While folks like me are out there trying to get a vehicle with a few months left on the sticker, this suddenly makes more vehicles available for consideration. I'd like to find one that had what will BE its last sticker about six months in the rearview mirror, not one that is going to be failed without question because it's "old" or looks junky. If it works and is safe, it works.
The most dangerous piece of vehicular equipment in Maine was, is, and always will be the nut behind the wheel.
(Bob Higgins is a regular contributor to The Portland Daily Sun.)