Don’t have time to take your car to the inspection station? Well, you’re in luck – or maybe out of luck. Because every few months the inspection station comes to you.
On Thursday, Oct. 22 the New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) set up a traffic checkpoint along Paterson Plank Road next to the former Hudson News Corporation building, in conjunction with the North Bergen Police Department.
“They call us and ask if they can come into our town,” explained NBPD Det. Frank Mena, who headed up the officers on the scene that day. “They bring a mobile inspection unit. It’s a way to get more vehicles inspected.”
In October, officers posted signs to slow traffic on the thoroughfare. Cars designated for inspection were directed down a driveway into an open lot alongside Paterson Plank Road. There the representatives of the DMV conducted spot inspections, with assistance from North Bergen police officers.
“They have a unit that measures the emissions,” said Mena. “Vehicles only fail you if you fail emissions.” Cars that pass get a new inspection sticker.
“[The DMV] inspects for that and we’ll go over the vehicle and see if there’s anything else wrong,” said Captain Robert Farley, who oversees the Police Department’s Problem Solving unit.
“It’s really a dual purpose. We get the cars inspected and we look to take unsafe vehicles off the road.” –Captain Robert Farley
If the driver can fix a problem on the spot they’re encouraged to do so. If they receive a summons and get the problem corrected they can bring proof to the judge and possibly get the charge dismissed.
Unlicensed and unregistered
“We usually start about 9 a.m. and finish up by 1,” said Mena. “We choose that spot because we have that lot. We need a place that can accommodate the cars but not impact traffic adversely. The checkpoint there slows traffic down but doesn’t cause a backup.”
“It’s really a dual purpose,” said Farley about the checkpoint. “We get the cars inspected and we look to take unsafe vehicles off the road.”
To that end, officers wearing safety vests stood in the road waving traffic through, while checking inspection stickers on passing vehicles. Any vehicles with expired or rejected inspection stickers were pulled over and directed into the lot.
Vehicles that failed inspection within the past 45 days were still within a grace period and were not penalized. Anyone outside the 45 day window received a ticket. If the car failed inspection again at the checkpoint, they were given another 45 days to get the problem corrected and the vehicle reinspected.
“We get a handful of unlicensed or unregistered people,” noted Mena. “Unlicensed drivers are afforded the opportunity to turn the car over to a licensed driver,” either a passenger in the car or someone who can come get it. Otherwise the car is impounded.
“Unregistered vehicles, they’re impounded, that’s it,” said Mena, although the officers had discretion to allow drivers to call the DMV and get their vehicles registered over the phone if it was only a few days past registration deadline.
“We’re not here to hurt people,” said Mena.
About 35 vehicles in total were inspected on Oct. 22 at the temporary checkpoint.
Other types of traffic stops
Pop-up inspections have been taking place for at least five years, according to Mena. The DMV aims to set up the checkpoint at the Paterson Plank Road location every couple of months, although the North Bergen PD may decline if they don’t have the manpower available to spare.
“Weather also plays a part,” said Mena. “If it’s inclement weather it will be canceled. We really try not to do it in January or February because of the cold.”
The Police Department also participates in other types of traffic stops throughout the year.
“We do a traffic check on the night before Thanksgiving,” said Mena. Police set up a DWI checkpoint that night at the same location along Paterson Plank Road. “We picked that date because that happens to be a big drinking date.”
The police are required by law to announce in advance when they are conducting such a checkpoint.
In addition to the stationary checkpoints, the department has roving patrols at certain times throughout the year, funded by the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety.
“And at the end of the summer we do the ‘Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over’ campaign,” said Mena. “And they put funding out there for roving patrols over the Christmas holidays.”
Art Schwartz may be reached at email@example.com.