Traffic on Interstate 66 near Manassas. (Stephanie K. Kuykendal/For The Washington Post)

Oh, no. The dreaded “check engine” light. And my annual Virginia motor vehicle safety inspection was due in a month. I knew my car wouldn’t pass and that I wouldn’t be allowed to stay on the road with that light on. Never mind that the light has nothing to do with the safe operation of the vehicle.

And also never mind that in a 2015 study the Government Accountability Office “examined the effect of inspection programs on crash rates related to vehicle component failure, but showed no clear influence.”

AAA Public Affairs Vice President Mike Wright said, “Nobody can prove with any degree of certainty that spending the money, suffering the inconvenience of getting your vehicle inspected, actually produces desired results.”

I was fortunate that a repair shop found that my car’s motor was “running a little lean.” With a cleaning and some TLC, the “check engine” light went out, and I was back on the road with my windshield sticker in place.

Just think of all the lives saved. See you next year!

But, in years past, to pass the safety inspection I have had to replace a functioning rear taillight assembly because of condensation and a faulty dash-light indicator — both at significant cost and neither of which degraded public safety.

Virginia has a personal vehicle safety program overseen by the state police that cannot be shown to enhance public safety. The people who perform inspections are often the same people who fix any identified deficiencies. By contrast, neighboring Maryland requires only that a safety inspection take place upon transfer of ownership. That’s a reasonable consumer protection. The District does not require safety inspections.

A government program that requires the purchase of a good or service in return for a nonexistent public benefit is illiberal and anti-consumer. Two-thirds of states see no need to impose the burden of annual personal vehicle safety inspections on their citizens; Virginia should end its inspection requirement.