Vehicle Inspection Service was initiated by many countries to drive process that ensure vehicles on roads meet required standard of safety, maintenance and control of carbon emission which can endanger human life. In 1977, the ‘Federal Clean Air Act’ was amended by Congress to require states to implement vehicle emissions inspection programs, known as I/M programs in all major metropolitan areas whose air quality failed to meet certain federal standards.
In some countries, it is expected that brand new vehicles are subjected to various road checks or worthiness test before certification, after three years of use to secure people’s life from road threats associated with poor vehicular maintenance.
In the United States of America, for instance, each state is autonomous to its choice of Vehicles Safety Inspection that they deem fit to improve safety on their roads. Where vehicular inspection exercise is conducted in eighteen states on annual or biannual basis for safety depending of the category of vehicles involved. In Maryland for instance, vehicle safety inspection is conducted prior to registration or transfer of ownership only.
Though some States are now clamoring for abolishing safety inspection process due its inability to reduce accident on the highway, seeing it as avenue to merely generate revenue by their government. Meanwhile, in United Kingdom vehicle inspection is a mandatory annual test of safety, road worthiness and exhaust emission for vehicles above three years old. Accredited garages or service centers are approved to run comprehensive check, before certification.
In Nigeria, the Vehicle Inspection Service (then Vehicle Inspection Office) has come of age from early 70s when the agency was responsible for conducting test as a necessity for the obtaining of drivers’ license, to issuing the license and some other major documents required to operate vehicles on roads. Traditionally, the officials of the agency conducted regular checks on motorists plying major roads, for expired vehicles’ documents along major accessories of standard vehicles.
These may include dysfunctional system such as emission, headlamp, broken windscreen, side mirrors, indicators, break light, worn out tyres among others. It was a regular occurrence on roads to see motorists without relevant documents become apprehensive or jittery at the sight of vehicle inspection officers. The fear of being penalized have made some desperate drivers taken suicidal moves of escape from being arrested, thus threatening life of other road users, just in a bid to evade arrest.
While some had luckily escaped, others were not that lucky. The gravity of their violation determines penalty awarded against the motorist. On many occasions, vehicles have been impounded with demurrage incurred over the numbers of days such vehicles stayed in Vehicle Inspection until all penalties are paid. In worst scenarios, rickety vehicles were restricted to yard for owner to refurbish such vehicles until it is no longer a threat to the environment or other road users. Driving through a slow moving or near stop traffic before now could signal of Vehicle Inspection check ahead, especially during peak period. Hence, the fear of VIS officials was the beginning of wisdom.
The need to ingest the system with modern day technology, in line with the restructuring plan of the Lagos State government swept through the operations of Vehicle Inspection Service with the deployment of modern day technology, put in place to improve its efficiency.
Consequently, Inspection Officers were withdrawn from roads and trained on a new mode of operation, using the Automatic Number-plate Recognition (ANPR) system to track traffic offenders without direct contact. This system works with CCTV cameras which are now planted on major roads to capture and process plate numbers to identify authenticity as well as validity of vehicles documents. In this case, officials have no business chasing vehicle owners operating on Lagos roads with expired documents around.
It is now a matter of interfacing with their system in the comfort of their office and generating penalty for offenders. A more civilized approach to vehicles inspection has detached vehicle inspection officers from having direct confrontation or harassment from the public. In recent time, it was reported that vehicles belonging to some notable people in the society were captured to be on roads with expired document. Consequently, owners were alerted with text messages which give ultimatum to pay fine within stipulated period. This has given victims of such penalty some flexibility of time to redeem penalty before their vehicles get impounded.
In view of growing incidents of carnage caused by poorly maintained vehicles on Lagos roads, with attendant loss of lives, Lagos state government reiterated the need for compulsory road worthiness test to periodically certify fitness of vehicles that operate on Lagos roads. Meanwhile, the State government has commenced operations of two computerized vehicles centres in Ojodu and Ikorodu.
This is a laudable transition from manual way of inspection, to technology driven method has improved efficiency of the system, while increasing the numbers of vehicles comprehensively tested on daily basis as other locations commence operation. Furthermore, the awkward and rigorous ways of testing motor vehicles that are error ridden have given way for a more error-free technological checker.
As conducive environment is key to efficiency of Vehicle Inspection Services, the construction of headquarter for the Agency at Ojodu, will eventually foster harmonious Federal Road Safety Commission for better service delivery to motorists. The peculiarity of Lagos State in hosting high level of vehicular activities daily has definitely increased demand for Vehicle Inspection Services in all its operational locations in the state. This justifies the recruitment of about 200 staffs with some conversions from within the system and trained in the line of efficient service delivery.
Despite the fact that the Lagos State government does not delight in imposing undue sanction on motorists, they are, nevertheless, expected to obtain genuine documents to avoid penalties for defiance. Such include valid driver’s license, valid road worthiness with Ccmputerized inspection in Lacvis, valid insurance certificate, valid Hackney/State carriage permit for commercial, Lagos State Driver’s Institute Permit for (commercial driver), fire extinguisher, good tyres/spare as well as C-Caution and Retro Reflective Tape (at the back of vehicles).
While the State government has not relented in its efforts to secure lives and property, especially in putting in place preventive measures against disaster of vehicles from our highway, it is important that all stakeholders key into the process. If we must put vehicles on the road, we must ensure that due documents are obtained, for the safety of all.
Odumade is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja