Ten percent of Oklahoma drivers are uninsured according to the Insurance Information Institute. That’s down from roughly 26 percent in 2012, but the state hopes to lower that figure using cameras that capture license plate numbers and run them through an insurance database starting November 1.
The program will start with five to six cameras placed in high traffic areas in Tulsa and Oklahoma City before it expands statewide. The Oklahoma District Attorneys Council (DAC) will oversee the program, known as the Uninsured Vehicle Enforcement Diversion Program (UVED).
“This is the least restrictive, obtrusive method that we were able to figure out so that people could be compliant with the law,” said Trent Baggett of DAC.
If caught, uninsured drivers will have to pay a $174 fee, and be required to provide proof of insurance within 30 days. Baggett says UVED allows people to avoid being charged with driving without a license and the consequences that can follow, such as accruing drivers license points, fines, jail time, and vehicle impoundment.
According to Oklahoma Watch, the state contracted with Gatso USA, a company that specializes in red-light-running and speeding detection systems. The company expects to issue 20,000 citations each month, which would generate tens of millions of dollars each year. DAC will receive 20 percent of all fines, and is required to report the number of cases processed, the total amount of fees collected and the total cost of the program.
Baggett believes the program will decrease the number of uninsured drivers in Oklahoma, but some disagree.
“For most people who don't have car insurance, it's an issue of being able to pay for car insurance. That's the hold-up,” said Courtney Cullison, an analyst at Oklahoma Policy Institute.
Cullison critiqued the 2016 legislation that created the program, arguing the underlying reason for high uninsured rates in Oklahoma is poverty. Nearly 16 percent of Oklahomans made less than the federal poverty level in 2017— that’s above the national average of 13 percent--according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Cullison also pointed out that car insurance premiums are often based on an individual’s credit score, which can raise rates for low-income people, who tend to have worse credit scores or lack credit history.
As a community-supported news organization, KGOU relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department.