Cameras across state busting uninsured motorists

Of the 50 cameras installed throughout Oklahoma, only one made it to Lawton. The camera is located near the 4700 block of Cache Road.

Arlene Engelbrecht, of Lawton, thought she was a victim of fraud when she received a notice from the state accusing her of being an uninsured motorist.

“At first I thought it was a scam,” said Engelbrecht. “The letter had a picture of my car and the location. It gave me 30 days to pay $174 for no insurance. I had insurance.”

It was not a scam, but a program of the Uninsured Vehicle Enforcement Diversion (UVED) which is looking to make uninsured motorists in Oklahoma a thing of the past — a program Engelbrecht wasn’t aware existed.

The program, implemented by the District Attorney Council uses technology to track and notify uninsured motorists. The program is a statewide initiative aimed at reducing the number of uninsured vehicles on Oklahoma roadways, said Amanda Couch, director of UVED. Since 2018, the UVED Program has deployed camera units across the state, taking photographs of license plates and comparing them to the Oklahoma Insurance Verification System (OKIVS), the same system used by law enforcement agencies to verify insurance. License plates associated with a valid personal line of insurance are immediately rejected — all other photographs are forwarded to the UVED Program for review.

Engelbrecht’s license plate was scanned by Lawton’s single camera near the 4700 block of Cache Road. The camera is one of 50 in the state.

Owners of vehicles believed to be in violation of Oklahoma’s Compulsory Insurance Law receive a Notice to Respond that contains a copy of the photograph taken and instructions on how to proceed. In order to participate in the UVED Program, a citizen must acquire liability coverage, pay a $174 enrollment fee and promise to maintain coverage for a period of two years.

The program is essentially deferred adjudication where the driver will pay the enrollment fee and not receive a misdemeanor charge, said Couch. However, the driver will need to maintain coverage on the vehicle for two years or face further penalties and charges.

Although the program supposedly rejects valid insurance holders, some smaller insurance companies do not subscribe to OKIVS, said Andrew Grubbs, Lawton Police public information officer.

“I’ve encountered this a lot when working traffic,” Grubbs said. “Dispatch would say the driver didn’t have insurance, but the person would be holding a valid card, so I went with what was in front of me.”

Engelbrecht, unsure what to do, took the notice to her insurance agent, Larry Bush of Larry Bush Insurance. Bush was able to prove to UVED that Engelbrecht was in fact insured and avoid the $174 fee for enrollment into the state’s diversion program.

According to UVED’s website, drivers believing they are not liable for any reason may provide documentation to the UVED Program by disputing their notice. Due to the way insurance policies are reported, vehicle owners with insurance policies in good standing may still receive a Notice to Respond.

“These rare occurrences are easily rectified by contacting your insurance agent, as listed on your insurance card, who must make the necessary adjustments on the Oklahoma Insurance Verification System (www.OKIVS.com) using the number on the Notice you received,” according to a statement on the website. “Citizens believing they are not liable for any reason may provide documentation to the UVED Program via this website, by telephone at (405) 806-8833, or by email to UVED@dac.state.ok.us.”

Drivers thinking they can ignore the notice will receive additional notices regarding this and future incidents and may have criminal charges filed against them by the District Attorney where they live, according to the UVED website.

The cameras and all equipment and software associated with installation and maintenance is covered by Maryland based Rekor. The company provides the cameras, installation, maintenance, access to OKIVS and data collection, said Couch. The company will receive $43 per enrollment in the state’s diversion program. The remainder of the $174 will be divided up among the state’s 27 district attorney judicial districts, insurance department and the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement Fund.

When a driver receives a notification in the mail from UVED, they will have 45 days to enroll in the diversion program, said Couch. Drivers will need purchase insurance through a licensed provider or use the state’s option on the UVED website. Once the driver has insurance they will be able to upload documents as proof, pay the fee and maintain insurance for two years. She said use of the state’s recommended insurance agent, Freeway Insurance, is not required.

The program began with legislation in 2016. By 2018 most insurance companies were reporting to OKIVS so UVED contracted with a company to begin installing cameras around the Oklahoma City metro area. However, two years into the program, the company had only installed 16 cameras. The state parted ways with the company and contracted to Rekor. Within 3 months the company had installed all 50 cameras across the state — well ahead of the contract’s 120 day plan. The first notices were mailed out Jan. 6, 2021.

“It’s going great, even better than anticipated,” said Couch. “I’m hoping to work myself out of work with this program and getting every driver insured.”

Couch estimated about 350,000 vehicles were uninsured when the program started in 2018. Now she’s estimating that number has declined significantly to between 200,000 and 210,000. She said the UVED program can’t take credit for all of it, but she believes the program has helped tremendously.

Data accessed by Rekor includes name, address, vehicle, insurance company and policy number. However, UVED will only keep the data for a short time with limited access.

“While this technology produces hundreds of thousands of images, all data collected by the UVED Program is retained solely by the program, and only for as long as it’s being used as evidence of a violation; when the data is no longer needed, it is deleted or destroyed,” according to a statement on UVED’s website.

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