Utah Police Cameras Could Identify Drivers with Auto Insurance Issues

Utah sign with penalties for driving with revoked registration

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License-plate-recognition technology has been put to use in Weber County, Utah, to help officers identify residents who are breaking the law, and motorists who have had their registration revoked due to lack of insurance are one of their targets.

The Weber County Sheriff’s Office has acquired, with the help of a $20,000 grant, a police vehicle equipped with four cameras that can scan and process hundreds of license plates per hour. Once the plate information is collected, it is run against information stored in a database, and officers are alerted if the owner has any outstanding warrants or if the car is reported stolen or unregistered.

According to Detective Chad Allen, of the Weber County Sheriff’s Office, the camera system is not currently synced with the state database that shows whether registered autos are covered by a policy, so it cannot identify violators solely by their insured status.

The technology will, however, alert officers if a car’s lack of coverage has led to the revocation of registration.

In this scenario, drivers who forgo coverage in order to avoid premium costs may wind up with an even bigger financial hit than if they would have simply purchased a policy in the first place.

Law enforcement officers in the state who locate autos that have had their registration revoked due to lack of coverage are authorized to impound the vehicle, and the applicable fees for the driver include towing, impound and storage fees, along with a $43 improper registration fee, according to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

Further, motorists convicted of driving without a policy in place are subject to a fine of at least $400 for a first offense; for subsequent offenses within three years, the fine jumps to $1,000.

Finally, offenders who go to re-register their cars must provide proof of insurance and pay a $100 “no insurance” reinstatement fee on top of the cost of registration.

States Look to Insurance Verification to Help Plug Budget Holes

Officials in other states in the past year have pushed for camera-based insurance-verification systems in order to enforce mandatory coverage laws and increase revenue from fines that would be collected from violators.

In early August, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell advocated the installation of cameras at intersections and alongside roads that would snap photos of plates and check those against a state database. A spokesman for Gov. Rendell told the Patriot-News that fines generated from such a program could generate around $115 million a year to be used by the transportation department.

More recently, the governor of Oklahoma advocated for such a system, estimating that it could raise approximately $50 million, according to NewsOK.com.

Neither of these plans, though, has gained approval.

One snag that contributed to the Oklahoma plan’s being scrapped highlights a shortfall of the camera systems — although many states maintain databases that pair registration and insured-status information for vehicles, no such database exists that aggregates the data for all 50 states. That means camera systems can only identify the insured status of vehicles with their respective states’ license plates.

About Ben Zitney
Benjamin Zitney has been covering the auto insurance industry for the past 2.5 years. Before coming to Online Auto Insurance News, he produced an extensive company history of the 30-year-old California Joint Powers Insurance Authority and worked at the Cal State Long Beach Daily Forty-Niner as a reporter, copy editor and news editor.

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