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Oklahoma could keep an eye on uninsured motorists

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT - Capitol Bureau Modified: November 27, 2009 at 7:07 am •  Published: November 27, 2009
State officials are looking at beefing up the state’s electronic insurance verification system by setting up cameras across the state to randomly record vehicle tags.

Cameras set up at about 200 locations along selected highways would focus in on a tag’s bar code — found at the bottom of each tag — and record it. Bar code scanners would match the tag numbers with a national database containing real-time vehicle insurance information.

Vehicle owners without valid insurance would be mailed a ticket.

"That’s a horrible idea,” said Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City. "It’s Big Brother at its finest.”

The proposed automated enforcement would expand Oklahoma’s existing system, which went online in July. The system now checks only Oklahoma vehicles; checks are made only when a vehicle owner has an encounter with a law enforcement officer, such as a traffic stop or being in an accident.

The new system could generate additional revenue for the state, which is in the midst of a revenue shortfall. Tax revenue for the state so far this fiscal year is about 22 percent below expectations.

Representatives from one company told legislators last session an expanded system could generate about $300 million annually. The state wouldn’t pay for the system; the company would be reimbursed from funds received from fines or administrative penalties.

"What we’re looking at really is only Oklahoma vehicles, but if the company has the ability to do non-Oklahoma vehicles they should present that in their information,” said David Beatty, project manager for Oklahoma’s compulsory insurance verification system at the state Public Safety Department.


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