June 2012

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

Region I

New Hampshire House: Let Teens Take Online Driving Course

The New Hampshire House has voted to let teen drivers take online driver education courses instead of attending driving school to get their driver's licenses. The House voted 240–74 Thursday to send the bill to the Senate that also requires teens under age 18 to receive a total of 60 hours of supervise, behind-the-wheel training. Parents must provide 20 of the 60 hours of training in the vehicle. The parents also must complete an online course to prepare them to teach their children how to drive. Teens who fail their written or road test and want to try again before turning 18 must complete a driving school course.

Connecticut Advances RFID License Plate Legislation

A lobbyist for the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) industry has convinced Connecticut legislators to consider implanting chips on the state's license plates. Last Wednesday, the Senate Transportation Committee voted unanimously to pass a bill asking the DMV to create a report on the implementation of RFID for motor vehicle registration by January 1. Implanting the chips on license plates would enable real-time monitoring of all vehicles by positioning tracking stations at key points throughout the state. The main interest behind the bill is to generate an automated ticket for drivers whose vehicle registration, emissions or insurance certification may have lapsed for a day or two. RFID makes photo enforcement systems far more accurate. Instead of having optical character recognition software identify vehicles from a picture of a license plate—often guessing when images are unclear —the chips would broadcast vehicle identity to nearby stations under all weather conditions. A rep from an RFID company testified that this approach would provide considerable income to the state by identifying vehicles that are violating the existing laws of Connecticut. He said the state would collect $29,619,500 per year or $79,858,500 in the same three-year period compared to the $594,000 it was able to collect. The financial estimates were based on the number of uninsured drivers the system could hit with $100 tickets. The system also would increase the profitability of red-light cameras, which the Legislature is currently considering authorizing.

Region II

Virginia to Require Ignition Interlock Device on First DUI Offense

Beginning July 1, 2012, every first-time drunk-driving offender in Virginia will be required to install an ignition interlock device in his or her vehicle as a condition of further driving. In Virginia, the ignition interlock device's breath test is set to fail if the reading is above the trace amount of 0.02 percent blood alcohol content. The bill was approved by more than 80 percent of legislators in both houses. With its passage, the bill makes Virginia the 15th state to require mandatory interlock devices as part of the punishment for all first-time drunk-driving offenders. In the past few years, there has been a persistent movement to toughen the commonwealth's drunk-driving laws. Driving-under-the-influence statistics in Virginia are sobering. According to the DMV, in 2010, alcohol-related crashes were about 7 percent of total accidents but accounted for 37 percent of total accident fatalities. In the same year, there were almost 30,000 DUI convictions in the commonwealth with a shocking average BAC of 0.1425. Offenders must drive with the interlock device for at least six consecutive months without failing its breath test and may not drive any vehicle without with the device. The bill also mandates that after a second DUI, every car owned or registered to the offender must be outfitted with an ignition interlock. Presently, only repeat drunk-driving offenders and first-time offenders with high blood alcohol content readings must install ignition interlock devices on their cars.

North Carolina DMV Plans 3-D Licenses, Shorter Wait Times

North Carolina DMV plans to introduce a new electronic system for renewing and issuing licenses with features that include a laser-engraved 3-D photo of the driver. An annual agency review presented to legislators Tuesday said the state's Next Generation Secure Driver License System will be introduced early next year. The new DMV computer system that will track driver information and generate the new licenses has been under development since 2010, paid for with the aid of federal grants. The new system will improve security by taking customer photos first, then tracking motorists through each part of the licensing process. The biggest change customers will see is the 3-D images on their licenses. Though the new photos will be black and white, they will capture much more detail. The new system should reduce average wait times for most transactions at the state's 112 DMV offices to less than 30 minutes. Current wait times average about 34 minutes.

Region III

Iowa—New Bill: Move Over or Face Driver's License Suspension

A bill moving through the Iowa Legislatures will increase penalties on drivers who refuse to give extra room to emergency vehicles on highways and interstates. The bill puts tougher penalties on drivers who don't move over for emergency vehicles or slow down at least 10 mph if they're unable to move over. Failure to do this means an immediate driver's license suspension for up to a year and possible fines. The bill has already passed the Senate. There is no opposition and it is expected to become law very soon. Legislators are also working with the Iowa Departments of Transportation and Public Safety to create public awareness programs to let people know that they need to move over for emergency vehicles.

Minnesota Deer River DMV Clerk Pleads Guilty to Stealing $100,000

A former Deer River city employee pleaded guilty Monday, March 19, to stealing approximately $100,000 while working as the city's deputy motor vehicle clerk. Sheila Marie Jerry, 51, pleaded guilty to a single felony count of theft of public funds. She gave the court $112,734 in restitution. She is scheduled to be sentenced on April 30. Jerry had been Deer River's deputy motor vehicle clerk for 16 years. According to the criminal complaint, Jerry told investigators in the fall of 2011 that she had stolen money for the past five years by keeping the paperwork and fees for titles on new automobiles. She stamped the title paperwork but not the original copies later sent to the state, keeping the cash from the title transfer. The theft ended when another woman noticed discrepancies in Deer River paperwork. The woman confronted Jerry, who admitted stealing the money. Officials searched Jerry's motor vehicle and residence, recovering 73 vehicle titles and associated fees valued at $99,671.

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Region IV

Colorado State Rolls Out Online-Reservation System for DMV as a Way to Cut Down Wait Times

That long line at the DMV may get a little shorter thanks to a new online-reservation system from the state of Colorado.  The DMV calls it the "Wait Less" program, and similar programs are used in other states including California, Wisconsin and Florida. This service is designed to save time by letting people schedule their appointments online before coming to the DMV. Once they arrive at the DMV office, there's a check-in kiosk station to speed things along. Additional services will be available at the kiosks and include address changes, voter registration and renewals. The DMV hopes to add customer text-message notifications, so people can avoid waiting on-site and be called back just in time to be at the front of the line. Right now, the service is available only at the DMV's Lakewood office, though the agency plans to extend that to the Denver Central office by the spring. By the end of the year, the state hopes to roll out the service to 11 additional offices. 

Study: California Cell Phone Restrictions Reduce Deaths

California's nearly four-year-old ban on drivers using handheld cell phones is saving lives, according to a University of California–Berkeley study. The study found that overall traffic deaths dropped 22 percent, while deaths blamed on drivers using handheld cell phones were down 4 percent. Deaths among drivers who use hands-free phones dropped at a similar rate. The university's Safe Transportation Research and Education Center examined deaths for two years before and two years after the cell phone ban took effect in July 2008. It found a similar drop in injuries attributed to drivers' cell phone use. The number of deaths among drivers using handheld phones fell from 100 to 53 during that period, while the number of injuries dropped from 7,720 to 3,862. An unrelated survey commissioned by the state last summer found 40 percent of drivers say they talk less while driving since the ban took effect, even if they have a legal, hands-free device.