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Oklahoma District Attorneys Council to Implement Roadside Scanners to Catch Uninsured Motorists


Oklahoma is believed to be the first state in the nation to implement a new roadside method to automatically ticket uninsured motorists.

According to Oklahoma Watch, the state's District Attorneys Council has partnered with Massachusetts-based Gatso USA to bring roadside license plate scanners to Oklahoma. These portable scanners, which can be placed and moved throughout the state, will automatically scan the license plates and compare them against a database of insured vehicles. If the vehicle is determined to be uninsured, the owner of the uninsured vehicle will automatically be mailed a citation for $184.

If the owner pays the fine, he or she will avoid a charge of driving without insurance on his or her record. Owners who don't pay the fee will have their information forwarded to the District Attorney's Office for possible criminal prosecution. In the case of incorrect citations, a vehicle owner can have the fee waived by proving that the vehicle was insured at the time the citation was issued.

The program is intended to crack down on the number of uninsured motorists in Oklahoma. Statistics show that approximately 26 percent of Oklahoma drivers are uninsured, giving the state the highest uninsured motorist rate in the nation. According to Trent Baggett, executive coordinator of the District Attorneys Council, "All we want is for people to get their insurance."

However, it seems that the Council wants more than to reduce the number of uninsured drivers in Oklahoma. After all, this agency, and not law enforcement, will reap the profits from the program. Of the $184 collected from each uninsured motorist fee, $80 will go to Gatso USA, the vendor, for the first two years. After that, the vendor's cut will drop to $74. After five years, their cut will drop to $68.

The remaining funds go to the District Attorneys Council. Administrative costs will account for $20 of each fine. The allocation remaining funds, which could net about $20.2 million a year, has not yet been established. 

Interestingly enough, Oklahoma does not allow cameras for detecting speeders or red-light runners--the two technologies that are the basis of Gatso USA's business. However, they do plan on implementing the scanners for detecting uninsured motorists. The District Attorneys Council says it is aware of privacy concerns, and that they plan on deleting data once it has been determined that a vehicle has insurance.

Still, Gatso has faced legal challenges in other states, and it is expected that it could face legal challenges in Oklahoma as well once the program rolls out next year.

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