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State prepares to unveil license plate reading system to hunt for uninsured motorists

State prepares to unveil license plate reading system to hunt for uninsured motorists

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mobile deployment

An image from a proposal submitted to the Oklahoma District Attorneys Council by the company Gatso USA shows a mobile license plate-scanning unit on a vehicle’s dashboard. The company has a contract to catch uninsured drivers in Oklahoma. Courtesy

State officials Tuesday unveiled plans to implement an automated license plate scanner system designed to clamp down on uninsured motor vehicles.

The system, the first of its kind in the country, will be operational by Nov. 1 and use technology that can issue up to 10,000 violation notices per day, officials said during a news conference held in Tulsa.

“Many people don’t realize that we’ve had a problem in Oklahoma that is damaging many citizens of the state and that is that about a quarter ... one-fourth of the drivers on the roads in the state of Oklahoma are driving without insurance,” said Brian Hermanson, district attorney for Kay and Noble counties and chairman of the District Attorneys Council.

Legislation approved and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin in 2016 made it legal for the program to be developed.

Called the Uninsured Vehicle Enforcement Diversion Program, automated license plate scanners mounted on cars, trailers and fixed locations will photograph passing vehicle tags across the state, comparing the plate data with insurance verification data maintained by the Oklahoma Insurance Department.

Vehicle owners found not to be insured will be sent a $174 civil violation notice.

“The main reason for this program is indeed to protect the citizens of Oklahoma,” Hermanson said.

State officials have contracted with a Massachusetts company, Sensys Gatso Group, which will bear the costs associated with deploying the plate scanners, software and personnel needed to run the system.

The contract calls for Sensys Gatso Group to be receive $80 per paid violation during the first two years of the contract.

The remaining $94 from each violation will go to the District Attorneys Council, a state agency that supports the 27 elected district attorneys.

Of the $94 per violation received by the District Attorneys Council, $74 will be divided among the 27 elected district attorneys.

The remaining $20 from each fee will be further divided, with $10 going to Oklahoma insurance verification system maintenance, $5 for payment processing and $5 to the Oklahoma Pension Improvement Revolving Fund, which benefits retired law enforcement personnel.

Afterwards, Sensys Gatso Group will receive a reduced amount under the terms of the contract — $74 per paid violation for the next three years and $68 from each violation for each subsequent year.

Officials at the news conference stressed that this will not cost the state any taxpayer money to run.

“Everyone who has vehicle insurance on their car will not pay a dime for this program,” said Kevin Buchanan, district attorney for Nowata and Washington counties and past chairman of the District Attorneys Council.

Buchanan said the program during the initial months will use five mobile cameras to cover the Tulsa and Oklahoma City metropolitan areas.

Retired commissioned law enforcement officers in the District Attorney’s Council initially will approve each violation notice sent to motorists, Buchanan said.

Motorists who receive violation notices will be asked to provide proof of insurance on their vehicle, agree to keep the vehicle insured for two years and pay the $174 fee.

Motorists who agree to the diversion program will avoid potentially being arrested, having their vehicle towed and having their driver’s license revoked, Buchanan said.

Fleet-owned vehicles, vehicles with tribal license plates and out-of-state vehicles won’t be included in the program because the state doesn’t maintain liability insurance data on those vehicles, Buchanan said.

Sensys Gatso Group President Andrew Noble said the program will use between 20 and 30 cameras, most of them at fixed locations, once it is fully operational. The cameras will eventually cover all 77 counties in the state, officials said.

Camera scanners will be installed at “choke point and high volume traffic areas” across the state, Noble said.

The camera locations will not be publicized, Noble said.

In its proposal to state officials, Sensys Gatso Group recommended initially capping the number of violation notices at 5,000 per day while the program bugs are worked out.

Asked about that figure Tuesday, Noble said he didn’t know the number of daily violations he expected to see.

“We’ve seen the statistics at how bad noncompliance has been in the state of Oklahoma,” Noble said. “We know statistically where people live and how many are here in the metropolitan areas, but it’s not going to be until the opening weeks of the program that we find out how bad the problem is.”

The system can handle up to 10,000 violations per day, Noble said.

“Are we going to get that many? We just don’t know.”

Noble said the system will not retain plate information for vehicles that meet state insurance requirements.

“It’s only specifically pictures of license plates of cars that don’t have insurance,” Noble said. “We’re not taking pictures of every car going past the camera. It’s just those that don’t have insurance.”

Data collected from violators will be kept for the two-year period that the motorists agree to maintain liability insurance, Noble said.

Curtis Killman

918-581-8471

curtis.killman@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @loucardfan61

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