AUGUSTA – Two independent candidates for governor are sparring over whether Maine’s annual motor vehicle inspection is necessary.

During a forum in Rockland last Friday, Eliot Cutler said it was an example of a state requirement he would seek to eliminate if elected.

Cutler said there’s no proof inspections prevent accidents, and that the state could eliminate the cost of hiring staff to oversee the inspection stations if the annual requirement was removed.

But Shawn Moody said in a news release Wednesday that cutting the program would result in less money for the state Highway Fund, endanger Mainers and threaten the environment.

“The state’s vehicle inspection program is an example of something we don’t want to cut because it brings revenues into the state to improve our roads, and makes all of us safer,” he said in the release. “And unless (Cutler) is planning to raise taxes to make up the difference, cutting the program will just mean that we have even less money to fix our roads and infrastructure. People spend enough money already on car repairs because of our bad roads.”

Moody, of Gorham, operates Moody’s Collision Centers at five locations in Maine. His business does not conduct state inspections, according to the news release.

Cutler, of Cape Elizabeth, responded by saying some programs aren’t accomplishing anything useful and need to be cut.

“(Saving money) was not the purpose of cutting it. What you’ve got to do is, you’ve got to go through the whole budget and you’ve got to get rid of programs that simply aren’t accomplishing anything useful for Maine people. This is one of them,” he said in an interview. “Maine people are paying too much money for all kinds of things. The last thing we ought to be doing is paying money for programs that don’t accomplish anything.”

Bills to lengthen the time between the required inspections have been voted down by lawmakers in recent years.

Maine State Police Lt. Brian Scott, commanding officer of the Traffic Safety Unit that oversees the inspection program, said the state collects more than $3 million a year from it.

“The inspection stickers are purchased (by inspection stations) from the state police at a cost of $2.50 per sticker,” he said. “I don’t have an exact figure right now, but we sell about 1.4 million inspection stickers per year.”

The annual inspection program aims to limit mechanical defects on motor vehicles that contribute to accidents, Scott said.

“We certainly think that there is an impact on public safety,” he said. Only about 3 percent of accidents in Maine can be attributed to vehicle defects, he said. Some other states reported 10 percent to 15 percent of accidents attributed to defects.

Scott said the calculations are based on accident reports filled out by state troopers who assess the primary cause of accidents.

“We hear very frequently from inspection stations that there are vehicles that they see one year that pass inspection that are in pretty good shape, that a year later have brake lines that have corroded and rusted to the point that they are close to failure and that they are picking those up at the time of inspection and replacing those lines,” he said.

Maine is in the minority of states that require auto inspections every year. The program has also seen cuts recently.

Maine used to have 10 civilian inspectors checking on inspection stations but now has eight due to budget cuts, Scott said.