road-trip tall2

december 2012

Learn what's happening with motor vehicle enforcement around the country.

Region I

New Hampshire Video Surveillance

Department of Motor Vehicles locations across the state of New Hampshire will now be subject to video surveillance of their employees and customers thanks to new federal security funding.

As an anti-fraud measure, installation of surveillance systems purchased with $465,000 in federal Homeland Security funding is now underway throughout New Hampshire after an initial round of funding provided the surveillance systems in select markets—Concord and Manchester.

The decision comes following a 2010 fraud bust that landed one former DMV worker in prison. Following the announcement, Motor Vehicles Division Director Richard Bailey Jr. told local news outlets that the new measures are not in direct response to a licensing fraud scheme in the state’s Salem office, but that the scheme did raise awareness of the issue.

“Certainly, the incident at the Salem substation brought to our attention the need to do more,” Bailey told New Hampshire’s Eagle-Tribune.

The scheme resulted in dozens of licenses being issued to illegal immigrants without proper documentation.

A former DMV clerk was charged in 2011 and has since been sentenced in the case to eight to 28 years in prison for her participation. The case also brought to light the DMV’s lack of facial recognition software that is used in other states to determine whether a person currently holds a license in another state.

Region II

Alabama Uninsured Drivers

Alabama roads stand to become safer as the result of a new effort to crack down on uninsured drivers.

Approximately 900,000 uninsured drivers will be subject to a new system of verifying whether they are equipped to take the roads legally under the state’s insurance requirement. In addition to verifying information at the time when a driver attempts to renew his or her license plates or applies for new ones, the system includes random computer checks to identify those who have recently dropped insurance coverage. Under Alabama’s Revenue Department, the checks will lead to contacting the motorists to prove they have obtained new, active coverage.

Since 2000, Alabama drivers have been required to carry liability insurance, yet data shows 22 percent of the state’s private automobile drivers don’t abide by that law.

Some drivers have skirted the law by signing up for new insurance and continuing to carry their insurance cards, despite not making payments to keep the insurance current. Those who are caught driving without insurance are subject to fines of $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for a subsequent offense.

The new system has cost the state roughly $150,000 to implement so far, according to local reports, and will go into effect Jan. 1, 2013.

Region III

Nebraska Driver’s License Fraud

The state of Nebraska is ramping up its efforts against driver’s license fraud through enhanced measures around its use of facial recognition software.

While initially implemented in 2009, the use of facial recognition software will now expand to include photos sourced from state jails. Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles officials say the hope is to cross-reference its database of driver’s license photos with photos on file with the jails to target new cases of fraud.

Past data on license fraud in the state indicates 90 percent of those who have committed license fraud since 2009 have had criminal records.

The DMV expects the number of identified fraud cases to rise as a result of the new measure and plans to next incorporate data provided by the state’s correctional facilities in addition to the jail-sourced photos.

Additionally, the Department aims to build a bridge through the effort with local police, which will be able to access the same complete database for a small fee. Police will be authorized to search for witnesses and suspects remotely via virtual private network (VPN).

Region IV

California Proof of Insurance

California drivers are going high-tech when it comes to showing their proof of insurance when being pulled over in the event of a moving violation or accident. Now, they can do it via smartphone or iPad.

An assembly bill signed into law in September by Gov. Jerry Brown amends the former traffic rules requiring drivers to carry physical proof of insurance at all times, to now allow them to display that proof, when requested, electronically.

The new law may help most of those who wish not to carry their printed insurance documentation for liability reasons or simply because they may have forgotten to keep a hard copy with them. As a result of the new law, drivers may access their proof via a mobile electronic device such as a Web-enabled smartphone or tablet.

In order to address issues that may arise through the interaction between driver and officer both handling the electronic device, the law prohibits an officer seeking insurance proof from viewing any other content on that device. Additionally, the legislation specifies that whenever a person presents the device in an effort to prove insurance coverage, he or she assumes liability for any damage to it.

The law is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2013.

California Wrongful Death Suit

Despite the fact that he was nowhere near a California car accident that killed a man, a local doctor was tried in September in a wrongful death suit resulting from the 2010 crash.

The doctor, Dr. Arthur Daigneault, was found not guilty by an Orange County jury for his involvement in treating the 85-year-old driver for dementia at the time she took the wheel. But the case raises questions about how much responsibility doctors have for older patients whom they may or may not deem fit to drive—especially as the U.S. population ages rapidly, and with it, the number of older Americans who hold a driver’s license. Cases like this one are drawing attention to new problems arising from elderly drivers.

Doctors in California, and in a handful of other states, are required to report any medical conditions of their patients that could be cause for concern when it comes to the patients’ ability to drive. The law, however, allows doctors to use their clinical judgment, essentially presenting some gray area.

For those with advanced Alzheimer’s, for example, the answer is obvious. For those with early stages of dementia, the answer is less so. Advocacy groups for older Americans have been receptive to a dialogue about the increasing need for more guidance on drivers suffering from dementia, but a solution remains to be seen.

“This is an important issue, and the doctors take it seriously,” Dr. Daigneault’s lawyer told reporters following the trial. “It’s an issue that is not black and white.”