Car Inspection Laws in Texas

Texas is one of the few states with mandatory annual vehicle safety inspections. These inspections are meant to reduce the number of accidents that result from unsafe vehicles. The state does not allow you to register your vehicle unless it passes an inspection at a certified inspection station.

But damaged and defective vehicles still caused thousands of car accidents in Texas in 2021. Whether a vehicle has a burned-out headlight or non-functional brakes, a poorly repaired or maintained vehicle poses a risk to both its driver and other road users.

Car Inspection Requirements in the U.S.

Car Inspection Requirements in the U.S.

Texas residents might not realize their state’s vehicle safety requirements are unusual. But Texas is one of only 11 states to require annual safety inspections to renew vehicle registrations. Five states require periodic inspections, but most states don’t require a safety inspection at all.

This was not always the case. In the late 1960s, Congress passed a law requiring states to implement safety inspections. This law allowed the government to withhold part of a state’s highway funding if it did not follow the mandate.

This legislation convinced 31 states to pass vehicle inspection laws. But Congress repealed the mandate in 1975, and states started to roll back their requirements. Only 16 states, including Texas, have any type of safety inspection.

But every state has a law allowing police to stop visibly unsafe vehicles. These spot inspections replace scheduled inspections in 34 states. In Texas, spot inspections supplement the annual safety inspection.

In other words, a Texas police officer can stop and cite you for driving an unsafe vehicle even if you passed your annual vehicle safety inspection. For example, suppose your vehicle produces clouds of white smoke. An officer may stop you to determine whether you are aware of the problem.

Car Inspection Requirements in Texas

Texas requires all personal vehicles to undergo annual safety inspections. The state also conducts safety inspections of commercial motor vehicles. But Texas handles this inspection program separately from the program for personal vehicles.

When your registration renewal is due, Texas requires you to obtain an inspection certificate saying that your vehicle passed a safety inspection at a certified inspection center. 

There, an automotive technician will match your vehicle identification number (VIN) with your registration and inspect your vehicle for the following:

  • Window tint
  • Windshield wipers
  • Mirrors
  • Horn
  • Brake lights, tail lights, rear reflectors, and license plate light
  • Headlights and turn signal lights
  • Wheels and tires
  • Brakes, including the parking brake
  • Seat belts
  • High-beam indicator
  • Steering
  • Exhaust and emissions control system
  • Gas cap

The inspection center will also need to see a copy of your insurance card to verify that you have auto insurance. The inspection center can charge up to $7 for a safety inspection.

Emissions Inspections Requirements

The nine counties that comprise the Dallas–Ft. Worth metropolitan area also requires annual emissions testing. In these areas, you need both an emissions certificate and a safety inspection certificate to register your vehicle or renew your registration.

If you need an emissions test, the inspection center can usually read the emissions data from your car’s computer. If your vehicle passes, the inspection center issues the certificate. When you need both inspections, the center can charge up to $25.50 for a combined inspection.

Crashes Caused by Unsafe Vehicles: Statistics

In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted a landmark study into the causes of traffic accidents. This study found that 94% of traffic accidents result from driver errors. Vehicle-related accidents only make up about 2% of all crashes.

Texas’s crash data matches almost exactly the NHTSA’s data. In 2021, Texas had 9,522 traffic accidents where a vehicle defect was cited as a contributing factor. The state had 552,224 total traffic crashes in 2021. This means 1.7% of Texas’s car accidents were caused, at least in part, by a vehicle defect.

According to Texas’s crash data, the most common defects include:

  • Worn tires
  • Malfunctioning brakes
  • Defective steering
  • Broken headlights, tail lights, brake lights, or turn signal lights
  • Defective trailer brakes or trailer hitch

Worn tires are the most common cause, making up over 43% of vehicle-related crashes in Texas in 2021. Worn tires can magnify the dangers of speeding by causing the driver to lose control of their vehicle. It also makes braking less efficient, leading to skidding stops.

Worn tires can also burst while driving. The sudden deflation of a tire can cause a car to swerve or even roll over.

If you have been injured due to an unsafe vehicle, you may have options for pursuing compensation for your losses. Some parties who might bear legal responsibility for your injuries include:

Negligent Car Owner

The owner of the unsafe vehicle might bear liability for a crash caused by the defective vehicle. If the owner knew the vehicle was unsafe but failed to take reasonable steps to repair it, they may have acted negligently. This theory might work whether the owner ran into you with an unsafe car or loaned the unsafe car to you.

Auto Manufacturer

If the car was defective when it left the factory, you might have a product liability claim against the manufacturer. The benefit of this type of claim is that your personal injury lawyer does not necessarily need to prove the manufacturer knew or should have known about the defect.

Instead, the manufacturer is liable for dangerous defects introduced during the design or manufacturing process. As a result, it must compensate you for your losses regardless of whether it knew about the defect.

Auto Repair Shop

Auto repair shops have a duty to perform their services with reasonable competence. If a repair shop fails to exercise reasonable care when it performs repairs and maintenance tasks, it is liable for any losses that result.

Getting Personal Injury Compensation After a Crash Caused by an Unsafe Vehicle in Texas

You can suffer serious injuries in a crash with an unsafe vehicle. While the police may be able to determine the cause of the crash, you will probably need the assistance of a lawyer to prove who was legally liable for it. 

Contact a Fort Worth car accident lawyer at Anderson Injury Lawyers today to discuss your crash and assess all your options for pursuing injury compensation. Give us a call for a free initial consultation at (817) 294-1900.