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AAMVA pioneers Registration and Insurance Card Standardization (RICS).

“A place for everything, and everything in its place.” At least that’s how the saying goes. But apply that phrase to the content and layout of data in documents read by law enforcement officers at the roadside or DMV employees at the counter—suddenly it transitions from a simple saying to a vital part of conducting business efficiently and safely.

“The registration documents and insurance cards vary greatly between jurisdictions and between insurance companies, and it’s very difficult for the folks that are the end users of these documents to find specific pieces of data or information that they’re looking for on a document when they look at documents from many different jurisdictions or insurance companies,” says Cathie Curtis, director of vehicle programs at AAMVA.

AAMVA formed the Registration and Insurance Card Standardization (RICS) working group, bringing together representatives from law enforcement, motor vehicle administration and industry to address inconsistent data content and formatting of vehicle registration and insurance identification documents. The RICS working group’s newly released Motor Vehicle Registration Document & Insurance Identification Best Practices Guide for Paper & Electronic Credentials presents recommendations for standardizing data elements for vehicle registration documents and insurance identification cards and the format in which they should be presented.

“Customer service is important to motor vehicle administrators. Having insurance cards and registration documents that are standard helps us collect information more quickly, and that results in better customer service because we are processing customers more timely, and, thankfully, that leads to customers not having the same wait times that they traditionally have in our driver license and motor vehicle offices,” says Dana Reiding with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV).

“In addition, it helps us ensure that we’re collecting data accurately so that when we, for example, have to send insurance information to insurance companies to verify the validity of the insurance provided, we can do that without errors that might result in customers being inaccurately suspended for lack of insurance. Overall, having standards helps us process customers faster and provides less inconvenience to customers who might be affected negatively by bad data.”

A Practical Solution

For the law enforcement community, quickly and accurately synthesizing information on insurance and registration documents is essential to doing the job safely.

“When the data on a document is formatted differently from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, it requires an officer on the side of the road to have extensive knowledge in each of those formats and be able to interpret the information correctly—and in a very short time frame. That’s not practical,” says Captain Lenny Casper with the New York State Police. “An officer’s attention is already divided during a traffic stop or crash investigation between the safety and security of the scene for all the involved parties and the proper collection and validation of required data for completing the necessary forms.”

The best practices guide produced by the AAMVA working group also discusses considerations for moving from paper vehicle registration documents and insurance identification cards to the electronic presentation of both.

“We’re in 2013 now—it’s the age of smartphones; it’s the age of new technology; and a lot of customers are increasingly going paperless,” says Chris Ziance with Progressive Insurance. “You’re seeing a lot of electronic ID card legislation throughout the country. Just in 2011, six states enacted a law. By the end of this session in 2013, I expect half the country will allow electronic ID cards.”

Opportunities in Technology

For DMVs that are responsible for the production of paper registration documents, like the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the shift to electronic documents presents an opportunity for cost-savings and better customer service. “The registration certificates could be electronic, and if they were they would potentially save taxpayer dollars,” says Rieding. “Customers have come to expect that we will have state-of-the-art provision of services like the private businesses they deal with. In many cases we do our activities online, and we no longer carry a big thick stack of documents in our wallet or car pocket, so having electronic documents overall is helpful to the customer as well as helpful to us in saving taxpayer dollars.”

“Moving to electronic vehicle registrations and electronic insurance identification documents has the potential to enhance the ability of an officer to efficiently collect and authenticate data during a traffic stop or crash investigation,” Casper says. “That potential can only be realized if all of the involved entities—the insurance companies, the DMVs and law enforcement—work together to create a systematic approach to the utilization of an electronic system and its electronic document, including authentication of the data presented to the officer.”

A Comprehensive Upgrade

The working group’s inclusion of insurance industry representatives in helping craft the best practices guide proved vital in creating a document with which both AAMVA jurisdiction members and industry partners will be able to work.

“It was important to include industry in the conversation because they know things we don’t,” says Brian Ursino, director of law enforcement at AAMVA. “They indeed brought things to the table that we otherwise would have been unaware of.

It was that confluence of subject matter expertise at the table between MVA and law enforcement jurisdiction members and technical experts from the insurance industry that helped come up with a very comprehensive document. We believe we discussed all the issues at great length, and we believe the recommendations we came up with are solid and can be implemented both by the motor vehicle administrators on the registration side, and insurance companies on the private side.”

“I think we as a group did a very good job of identifying the requirements that needed to be included in the best practice guide, and I also think we were successful in incorporating as many of these as we could into the final recommendation,” says Dennis Haake with Polk, a member of AAMVA’s Industry Advisory Board (IAB) who participated in the RICS working group. “I also think that was a very key component—having IAB participation to identify some of these essential requirements. As a result, I do believe that vendors should be able to work with the DMVs to conform to the final recommendations that we’ve put into the document.”

While the working group recognizes that jurisdictions will most likely be unable to immediately move toward standardizing their data and forms, the group hopes that when members have the opportunity to change or upgrade their current operations, they utilize the recommendations in the best practice guide.

“We fully understand that not everyone can retool their system immediately, and that’s not our expectation,” Ursino says. “But as motor vehicle administrators evaluate their documents over time and are talking about retooling or reformatting, that would be the time to take our best practice guide and take our recommendations to heed when they’re developing a new or next-generation document.”



Answer to poll question: D, None of the above