Traffic License Plates

Traffic travels east on I-44 near Sapulpa on Monday, March 18, 2019. In the few months Oklahoma’s Uninsured Vehicle Enforcement Diversion program has scanned license plates across the state, the program has sent more than 14,000 violation notices to drivers.No violations have been reported yet for prosecution because UVED wants to give people time to comply. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World

In the 10 months since the Uninsured Vehicle Enforcement Diversion program hit the road, its camera-equipped cars (and one trailer) have crossed Oklahoma scanning license plates and checking for insurance verification.

UVED Prosecutor Amanda Arnall Couch said the program has scanned plates in all but the three Panhandle counties and enrolled 7,348 drivers, each paying a $174 fine and agreeing to maintain insurance for the next two years. In March, the program had enrolled nearly 1,000.

Since rolling out in metro areas in the winter, the program has expanded coverage to most of the state, Arnall Couch said. At an Oklahoma Association of Police Chiefs conference, the agency raffled off the chance to be the first smaller city to host its camera-equipped trailer.

“Dewey — the thriving metropolis of Dewey, Oklahoma — got the trailer first,” Arnall Couch said. “It spent a couple weeks in Dewey, a couple weeks in Bartlesville. It’s currently in Claremore, and then it’s going to Idabel next.”

UVED uses a “hot list” provided through data from the Oklahoma Insurance Department and Oklahoma Tax Commission. The Insurance Department provides a real-time snapshot from insurance companies of Oklahomans’ insurance policies, while the Tax Commission provides the database of license plates.

When a plate comes back not connected to an insurance policy, it’s added to that day’s hot list that cameras are searching for. Enforcement is retroactive, meaning a violation caught on one day will be enforced even if the driver gets auto insurance before being contacted by UVED.

Despite the growing number of drivers in the program, Arnall Couch said she doesn’t have a good answer to the program’s overall impact on the number of uninsured drivers. Because the state recently issued new license plates and insurance is necessary to renew tags, the exact number of uninsured drivers is hard to pinpoint and may be artificially low because of the plates, she said.

UVED has also discovered hiccups in the system. About 2,500 drivers have successfully contested their citations, and Arnall Couch said “almost all” of those have been vehicles whose registration hasn’t been changed to a new owner.

With the July 1 change that license plates don’t stay with vehicles that are sold, Arnall Couch said that number of false positives continues to drop.

Although the law’s change has improved accuracy, the system has discovered new faults. Problems remain in verifying commercial insurance coverage, but Arnall Couch said cooperation with insurers will eventually curtail those issues.

There have also been issues with VIN typos, vehicles registered to someone other than the insurance policyholder, and instances of Oklahoma-registered vehicles having out-of-state insurance.

Because the agency is still working to perfect the system’s accuracy, Arnall Couch said she hasn’t referred anyone for prosecution yet.

“I am doing my darnedest not to prosecute any Oklahomans,” Arnall Couch said. “This is still, in my opinion, a brand new program. There are enough discrepancies apparent in this system that it doesn’t seem fair to me.”

But those referrals to district attorneys could come soon. Those enrolled in the program have paid a fine and promised to get insurance, Arnall Couch said. That doesn’t always mean they have kept insurance up after enrolling, and she said they will likely be the first to see a judge.

“Now, people are probably going to start turning up,” Arnall Couch said. “I have a list of a couple, less than 10, that said, ‘Yes, I got insurance,’ enrolled in the program and then got caught again. Those people may find themselves rolling into prosecution over the next couple of months.

“But again, until I can be sure that the reason they’re popping up on the list isn’t one of these other issues, it just doesn’t seem right to me to send them out to a DA for prosecution.”


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Stetson Payne

918-732-8135

stetson.payne@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @stetson__payne

Staff Writer

Stetson covers breaking news, general assignment and other stories. He previously worked at the Enterprise-Journal in Mississippi. He is from Broken Arrow and graduated with a journalism degree from Oklahoma State University. Phone: 918-581-8466

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