Feature news reporting

It can be easy for reporters to cover the drama, decisions and major players on Capitol Hill — but sometimes they can forget to cover the everyday people legislation affects. That’s why I decided to explore the impacts on car owners and local businesses of a new Utah law that had ended the requirement for vehicle safety inspections. I took a perspective beyond the bickering at the state Capitol and spent the morning at an auto body shop, talking to residents and observing the store owners’ work.

The resulting piece ran on the front page of The Salt Lake Tribune the next day and struck a chord with our readers. It reached nearly 14,000 people online and became the most-read story on the website that day. I also received several emails from readers who were passionate about the issue and wanted to continue conversation about the issue beyond the story.

Read the full story online here or see the story in print here.

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Utahns cheer, dread impending demise of required vehicle safety inspections

West Jordan • The lobby of Speedway Safety and Inspection is often filled with impatient vehicle owners waiting for the completion of a government-mandated safety inspection of their cars.

Owners of some establishments like this one worry that there will be fewer such customers next year under a new law that will eliminate safety inspection requirements as of Jan. 1. Fiscal analysts estimate that the change will cost businesses $25 million per year — money taxpayers will save.

Kent Geis, a self-described “car guy” who owns multiple old vehicles, says he frequents Speedway more than most people. When he talked about the new law — HB265 — his face lit up.

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West Jordan • The lobby of Speedway Safety and Inspection is often filled with impatient vehicle owners waiting for the completion of a government-mandated safety inspection of their cars.

Owners of some establishments like this one worry that there will be fewer such customers next year under a new law that will eliminate safety inspection requirements as of Jan. 1. Fiscal analysts estimate that the change will cost businesses $25 million per year — money taxpayers will save.

Kent Geis, a self-described “car guy” who owns multiple old vehicles, says he frequents Speedway more than most people. When he talked about the new law — HB265 — his face lit up.

Screen Shot 2018 04 08 at 9.31.16 AM

“I always dread [the safety inspection],” he said. “I know what I’m doing when it comes to cars. I don’t need to pay somebody to honk my horn, to run my windshield wipers and to check my brake lights. I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself.”

When Geis stepped up to the counter to grab his car keys and pay for his inspection, he and the store’s owner engaged in a spirited discussion about the necessity for such evaluations.

“Thanks for coming in here to tell me what I do is useless,” said Mark Carson, who has owned and operated Speedway since 1998. “But we appreciate your business.”

Bryce Carson, Mark’s son, conducts safety and emissions inspections at Speedway and said tensions run high daily with customers who feel forced into paying $15 for an inspection they deem unnecessary. One benefit Bryce said he anticipates from the elimination of the requirement is that this agitation will settle down.

But Speedway’s owner worries that the law may cause more harm than good, and he estimates that his business will lose $60,000 next year.