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A new single-sticker system for inspecting and registering millions of Texas vehicles begins on Sunday, and some lawmakers are warning that the change will confuse Texas drivers.

“I personally believe it’s going to be chaos for a little while,” Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, chairman of the Texas House of Representatives Transportation Committee, said at a Capitol hearing last week.

Under the current system, Texas drivers display two stickers on their windshields indicating their vehicle has been inspected and registered.

The Legislature in 2013 approved a new policy to bundle vehicle inspection and registration into one process, with one sticker. Transportation officials say the single-sticker system will save the state money and help crack down on counterfeit stickers. The cost to vehicle owners will remain the same.

Starting Sunday, when a car passes inspection, the owner will receive a written report instead of a sticker. The report is automatically filed to an online database, and when the owner registers that vehicle, officials will check the database and verify that the vehicle has been inspected. The owner will receive a new sticker that represents both registration and inspection.

“Once you’ve done it once, by the second time it’s probably going to be OK,” Pickett said.

State transportation officials embarked on a public awareness campaign including English and Spanish radio ads, flyers and a website that can calculate a vehicle owner’s next step based on his or her current registration and inspection information.

Despite education efforts, there could be some confusion during the first year of the new policy, which officials have dubbed the “sync-up” year because some vehicles will go more than a year without an inspection in order to align inspection and registration dates.

Here’s what Texas drivers need to know about the new policy:

  • If a vehicle’s registration expires before its inspection: Get the vehicle registered by the end of the month indicated on the registration sticker. Both registration and inspection will expire one year from that date. The old inspection sticker becomes irrelevant — drivers can throw it away, or hang on to it as a relic from the old days.
  • If a vehicle’s inspection expires before its registration: Get the vehicle inspected by the end of the month indicated on the inspection sticker. Drivers will receive an inspection report instead of a new sticker. When they later register their vehicle, both registration and inspection will expire one year from the date of registration.
  • After Feb. 29, 2016, drivers will be required to have their vehicles inspected no more than 90 days before their next registration date.
  • The cost of inspecting and registering a vehicle will not change, but vehicle owners will make two separate payments. Instead of paying the usual $39.75 at the inspection station, owners will pay the $25.50 inspection fee at the station and pay the state the remaining $14.25 at the time of registration.
  • Inspection standards will not change.

RYAN McCRIMMON reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is made available here through a news partnership between the Texas Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.

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