If you’re driving without insurance, don’t be surprised if you get a citation in the mail or a knock on the door by cops holding a warrant for your arrest because your license plate got spotted out on the roads.
That’s what’s happening now, in at least one Mississippi community. The town of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, has installed multiple cameras at different spots around the city. The cameras are hooked up to sophisticated artificial intelligence software that automatically scans license plates using digital recognition technology. Captured plate numbers are automatically run against a database of existing insurance policies. If there is no in-force insurance in place on the car, the system flags it, and a sworn police officer verifies the tag number, make, and model of the vehicle.
Officials disregard matches from rental cars, commercial vehicles, and certain others. And then issue citations: Some 8,000 of them since the City of Ocean Springs first implemented the program at the beginning of the year.
The penalty for driving uninsured in Ocean Springs is a $510 fine, plus court costs. For first offenders, the City of Ocean Springs offers a lower cost alternative: A diversion program which allows offenders to pay the diversion fee of $300.00, take a short online course, avoid suspension of their driver’s license, and keep the citation off their driving record.
Failure to heed the citation, of course, will be quickly followed by an arrest warrant.
If you continue to drive without insurance, the fine will get bigger next time around, and the state will suspend your license pending an SR22.
Is it Legal?
It’s probably legal where you are. And it’s probably getting adopted near where you are, too.
Now, Mississippi’s a special case: Attorneys have filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of everyone who’s been issued a citation via this system. That’s because a Mississippi statue makes use of automated license plate recognition illegal throughout the state.
(a) Neither the board of supervisors of any county nor the governing authority of any municipality shall adopt, enact or enforce any ordinance authorizing the use of automated recording equipment or system to enforce compliance with traffic signals, traffic speeds or other traffic laws, rules or regulations on any public street, road or highway within this state or to impose or collect any civil or criminal fine, fee or penalty for any such violation.
(b) Any county or municipality using automated recording equipment or system shall remove the equipment or system before October 1, 2009.
(2) For the purposes of this section, the term “automated recording equipment or system” means a camera or optical device installed to work in conjunction with a traffic control signal or radar speed detection equipment or both and designed to record images that depict the license plate attached to the rear of a motor vehicle that is not operated in compliance with instructions of the traffic control signal or the posted speed limit.
Biloxi police and the camera and Securix, the system manufacturer, claim the suit is “frivolous.” Their claim is that the law only applies to using cameras to enforce laws governing moving violations. Laws mandating things like insurance coverage – and by extension expired tags, etc., s, are not “laws regarding traffic signals, traffic speeds, or other traffic laws, rules or regulation.”
Their argument is that since insurance requirements aren’t traffic laws, they are fair game for automated enforcement.
If Ocean Springs has signed on with Securix to operate an automated plate recognition system, it’s a sure bet that there are loads of others.
And why wouldn’t there be? Mississippi has a massive uninsured driver problem. The worst in the nation, with 29.4% of Mississippi drivers driving uninsured, according to the Insurance Information Institute. In contrast, the average uninsured driver rate nationwide is 12.6% – well under half of the Mississippi rate, according to the III.
Ay, ay, ay!
Uninsured drivers put everyone else on the road at risk. – and drive up insurance premiums for law abiding and responsible drivers.
Clearly, Mississippi needs to do something to drive down the uninsured driver rate. And Ocean Springs police claim there has been a 36% decrease in uninsured motorist rates in town since the program went into effect earlier this year.
Word gets out.
And, of course, other states don’t have the same statutory constraints on automated camera enforcement of traffic laws that Mississippi does. In fact, some states, including Texas and Wyoming, have introduced legislation specifically permitting it.
Automated plate recognition technology is getting rapidly rolled out across the United States. If your hometown doesn’t install it, chances are you’ll be driving through another town in your state that does. And if you’re uninsured, or you’re driving with expired tags (or Montana tags, if you’re in a state that’s cracking down on improper Montana registrations), it’s only a matter of time before the system catches up with you.
If you’re driving without insurance, don’t. It puts you at tremendous financial risk. And it puts everyone around you at risk, too.
And if you want to save money or improve your insurance coverage, or add coverage against uninsured or underinsured motorists, contact us today. Just click here to get a free quote from multiple quality carriers competing in your area.
Or call us at (855) 438-7353, and ask to speak with one of our agents.
If you’ve been cited for driving without insurance, or for anything else, and need an SR22 filing, that’s our speciality. Contact us today!
See you on the road!
Steve “Mr. Insurance” Ludwig
Select Insurance Group