Not too long ago, getting your vehicle inspected in New Jersey involved a comprehensive mechanical review.

Inspectors looked at your steering, suspension, lights, glazing, tires, wiring and switching, brakes, wipers and horn. They conducted an an emissions test and an inspection of your windshield and gas cap.

(joebelanger, ThinkStock)

Today, the only things that are checked are the vehicle’s emissions and gas cap to make sure fuel isn’t leaking.

In a written statement, Mairin Bellack, the deputy director of communications for the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission said the system was changed in 2010 because accident statistics showed less than 1 percent of fatalities were related to mechanical errors. Cars are now made better with many technological advancements, vehicles have longer warranties and roads have better technology.

Some believe the driving force behind changing the system was a cost savings for the state of about $12 million a year. And not everyone agrees it was a good idea.

According to Tracy Noble, AAA Mid-Atlantic manager of public and government affairs, having cars on the road that are not properly maintained has been a concern ever since the system was changed.

“It makes the inspection process onerous on the vehicle owner and operator to make sure their vehicle is in proper worker order,” she said. “It makes you rely heavily on the dashboard indicator lights that are in the vehicle to acknowledge that there’s something wrong and then you take the steps to get it corrected.”

She added with this kind of system “there could very well be vehicles on the road that are operating with low tire pressure, with headlights or taillights that are not working, and there’s no checks and balances in the system unless that owner acknowledges the fact and takes steps to get it corrected.”

According to Noble, it’s important for New Jersey drivers to be as safe as possible on our crowded roadways, and to make sure their vehicles are in proper working order.

“If you have a dashboard indicator light that is lit, look in your owner’s manual, see what the issue is and take it to a reputable repair shop to get it replaced,” she said.

Starting late this summer, required emissions testing for pre-1996 vehicles will end in New Jersey, and inspectors will switch to an on-board diagnostic test for all other vehicles.

New Jersey began inspecting vehicles in 1938, and the first emissions testing was started in 1974.

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