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Editorial: Car part graveyard

Vehicle inspections could keep cars and trucks that aren’t roadworthy off the road. —
Vehicle inspections could keep cars and trucks that aren’t roadworthy off the road. — 123RF Stock Photo

You get behind the wheel, you drive.

Today is like any other day. Maybe you notice that there’s something different about the car; maybe it flicks through your mind for a moment as you negotiate the lineup at the coffee shop drive-thru, and then you move on to what’s ahead at work and all the other issues in daily life.

Face it: few of us are experts in the workings of the automobile.

And that makes walking along the side of a major urban thoroughfare in St. John’s an interesting stroll.

Throughout the winter, snowplows have been scooping up snow and slush and everything else and flinging it over the curb. Since spring, the city has deployed street sweepers on a regular rotation around city streets. Yet the side of a route like Kenmount Road is littered with the pieces that have broken off of, or fallen off of, people’s cars.

Not the shards of fibreglass and plastic from fender-benders or the sparkle of broken taillights and turn signals.

No, these are more integral bits.

There are nuts, bolts and washers of unknown provenance. There are heat shields from exhaust systems — whole sections of exhausts; the long rusty bent steel bars of truck leaf springs. Lug nuts from wheels; occasional brake shoes, door-lock cylinders. Emergency brake cables. All types of broken or escaped belts. Parts broken off of shocks and struts. An endless number of castoff sizes of the small lead pieces that are put on your wheels to balance your tires. And if a city street’s harvest of fugitive car parts doesn’t give you the chills, have a look along a stretch of highway ditch. The parts are larger and more significant.

This province used to have mandatory annual inspections for older vehicles. The process was stopped, with the government of the day saying the program was flawed because some garages were simply selling inspection slips.

There are nuts, bolts and washers of unknown provenance. There are heat shields from exhaust systems — whole sections of exhausts; the long rusty bent steel bars of truck leaf springs.

Older vehicles still have to be inspected before they are sold, but what about your old trusty runabout?

You can’t manufacture sea salt in this province — simply drying seawater into grains of salt — without mandatory food premises inspections of your facilities. You can’t make and sell ice from municipal drinking water, or bottle vinegar. But you can hurtle tonnes of metal down the highway without the benefit of having a regular inspection to see if the brakes have enough life left in them to safely stop your forward momentum.

Many people are probably fine without the cost and inconvenience of annual inspections for older vehicles.

But think about how people take their cars for granted; without annual inspections, what exactly is on the road? The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary seizes hundreds of cars every year that simply aren’t roadworthy.

There are plenty of other vehicles they don’t stop. Maybe the car that’s behind you the next time you stop at a red light.

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