By Catharin Shepard •
Staff writer •
\Even as North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper issued executive orders closing schools, banning large gatherings and shutting down some businesses, there was a matter he couldn’t address from his office: car inspections.
Yearly required vehicle inspections and the fines for people who don’t keep their vehicle registration up to date – even in the middle of a pandemic – are still in effect, according to state officials.
That’s because the rules governing vehicle registration are on the books as part of North Carolina’s state law, and it would take an act of the state General Assembly to change the law. The governor and even the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles can’t waive the inspection requirement or any fines incurred, according to Steve Abbott, assistant director of communications for the N.C. Department of Transportation.
“Neither the DMV or the Governor have the legal authority to extend expiration deadlines or waive late fees. They are part of state law, so that can only be handled by the General Assembly, which we will work with regarding those issues as soon as it meets later this month,” Abbott wrote in an email.
Asked about the situation, Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin said in a message that people “can still take care of those needed things.” Car inspection stations and vehicle repair shops are still open across the state. They are considered “essential” businesses that can continue to work during the stay-at-home order if they choose to do so.
State lawmakers could potentially change the law, waive the fines or take other action to address the situation. Hoke’s official in the North Carolina House of Representatives, Rep. Garland Pierce, confirmed Monday that’s where things stand.
For now, Abbott said, there are a few options for how people can still comply with the law while maintaining social distancing.
Some inspection stations are already using disinfectant to wipe down surfaces that workers had to touch to conduct the inspection. Drivers can also bring their own disinfectant to do a wipe-down afterward. Once the inspection is done the owner can renew online at www.ncdot.gov/dmv or through the regular mail without having to go in person to a license plate agency.
The best thing is to call first and ask what each inspection station is doing, and pick the one that meets the customer’s needs, Abbott said.
The state shut down all DMV offices that couldn’t provide enough spacing for customers to stay six feet apart.