“That’s not money I have”: New Inspection Laws Burden Students at U-32

(A student’s 1985 Mercedes Benz 300 at U-32 High School)

The U-32 High School parking lot has changed over the years. The sputtering engines, squealing fan belts, are a thing of the past.

The Vermont Inspection Laws regulate what vehicles are safe to drive and what vehicles are not. Cars that in the past have been perfectly road legal, are now sitting in junkyards or in driveways- untouched.

Beginning this year, there are new inspection laws requiring an emissions test.

Ogden Hersey, a senior at U-32, has worked as a mechanic at Utton’s Automotive in Montpelier for the past four years. Of the recent changes to the Inspections laws over the last few years, a highlight is the implementation of the Inspection Computer.

(The inspection computer at Uttons Automotive, in Montpelier VT)

“After we generally look over the car to make sure that it’s physically safe to drive, we then plug it into the inspection computer,” Ogden said. “This device resembles the form of an old tablet, which has a poorly constructed camera that stores photographs of the vehicles that are then sent to the Department of Motor Vehicles.”

Under the dashboard of the car is a port called the OBD2, and essentially what this does is detect whether any of the check engine lights are on.

For young drivers, even before the new laws, the financial demands of inspection can make it hard to own a vehicle.

Taylor Fair, a U-32 senior, was recently denied inspection on her vehicle.

“About ten minutes into it [The Inspection] the guy [mechanic] said that there was nothing else he could do,” Taylor said. “He said that the vehicle wouldn’t pass because I needed new brakes- so now I need to spend $600 on new brakes before I can even pass inspection again.”

Taylor is currently attending classes at CCV full time and has a part-time job that she juggles on the side to pay for her vehicle’s gas and expenses.

“It was very stressful, and thankfully my dad is helping me out,” she said. “But I will have to pay that back- And that’s not money I have- and it’s not even money that my dad has either.”

There are still some ways that Vermont inspectors show leniency.

U-32 Senior, Basil Humke had a similar experience with his vehicle when it failed to pass inspection due to a leakage of exhaust through a hole in the exterior of the car.

At first, they told him his car could not be inspected, but then when he prodded further, they suggested that he patch the hole himself with sealant from a hardware store.

“I got some sort of sealant- I somehow patched it up,’ Humke said. “It took me about four hours, and when I brought it back in they took a long look at it and finally they said, ‘alright well- this probably shouldn’t pass inspection but you seem like you worked hard on this so we’ll give you this one.”