Mar 23 2021

The Tech Behind Uninsured Vehicle Diversion Programs

These projects help uninsured motorists avoid prosecution and legally get back on the road.

Uninsured vehicles are a big problem for state governments and our nation’s motorists. According to data derived from the Insurance Information Institute, nearly 1 in 8 drivers in the U.S. are uninsured, which puts all drivers at greater risk in the event of a crash.

In addition to the burden on other drivers, states are deprived of a significant amount of tax revenue from insurance premiums that should be paid by millions of vehicle owners and are used to fund infrastructure and other investments.

Identifying Uninsured Vehicles Has Been Challenging

As many states already know, identifying uninsured motorists on the road isn’t easy. Short of random traffic stops and manual intervention by officers, law enforcement authorities and district attorney offices have no apparent means to identify those who are driving without insurance.

But in the state of Oklahoma, things are different. Thanks to groundbreaking government legislation, the state has implemented an innovative, technology-driven approach to solving the problem.

Established in 2018, the statewide Uninsured Vehicle Enforcement Diversion Program pioneered the use of low-cost vehicle recognition technology that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect uninsured motorists on the road and connect them with affordable insurance.

Getting people insured is the ultimate goal of Oklahoma’s UVED Program.

Technology Detects Noncompliant Vehicles in Real Time

Studies suggest that about one quarter of drivers on the roads of Oklahoma drive their vehicles without insurance, despite a legal obligation that motorists must have coverage.

Funded by the notice fees paid by registered vehicle owners and operated by the Oklahoma District Attorneys Council, the UVED Program is designed to address this crisis by alerting motorists that their vehicles are uninsured, a violation of law in Oklahoma and most states.

As motorists travel on the state’s roads and highways, strategically placed sensors capture images that include each vehicle’s make, model, color and license plate. Video analytics then automatically compare the images to the state’s real-time insurance verification system.

When an uninsured vehicle is detected, an evidence package is sent to the DAC. Upon review, the motorist receives an automatic notice to respond in the mail, encouraging them to obtain insurance and enter a diversion program in lieu of prosecution.

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Getting Drivers Back on the Road, Legally

A key goal of the UVED Program is to divert cases of insurance noncompliance away from the court system.

Although owners of vehicles found to be operating without the requisite coverage could be charged with a crime, the UVED Program seeks to keep Oklahomans away from criminal proceedings by notifying the owners of uninsured vehicles about the potential for charges — before law enforcement intervenes.

Recognizing that one of the reasons for the state’s high number of uninsured drivers is that many can’t afford insurance, the UVED Program developed a web portal where citizens can explore low-cost coverage options and avoid potential penalties.

To encourage drivers to opt in to the program and get back on the road legally, the DAC’s office also coordinated a public outreach effort through print, television and social media.

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How Oklahoma Addresses Data Privacy Concerns

Protecting data privacy is of paramount concern when identifying vehicles for noncompliance. Many vehicle recognition technology vendors store license plate data and sell it back to law enforcement clients or third parties.

The Oklahoma UVED Program does not do this. All data collected by the state cameras is retained solely by the program and only for as long as it’s being used as evidence of a violation; when the data is no longer needed, it is destroyed. The UVED Program headquarters is also a physically secure facility.

Today, the program has nearly 50 cameras in each of its 27 district attorney districts — all launched in just 61 days. The payoff has been significant: Since 2018, the number of uninsured drivers on Oklahoma’s roads has fallen from 350,000 to approximately 215,000, making the state’s roadways safer for everyone.

-38.6%

The percentage decrease in the number of uninsured drivers in Oklahoma since 2018

Source: State of Oklahoma

Oklahoma has also realized approximately $2.8 million for the state — not bad for a revenue-neutral program. In addition to paying for the upkeep of the insurance verification system, these funds are channeled back into each district attorney region and the state’s public employee pension system.

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Making Wise Use of Investments for Interagency Good

Since its launch, the UVED Program has helped Oklahomans stay safe on the roads, but its use cases extend beyond flagging uninsured motorists.

Tax agencies could use the same cameras to identify unregistered vehicles or registered vehicles that have out-of-state insurance (a violation in Oklahoma). Law enforcement agencies can also piggyback on the system to detect suspicious or stolen vehicles or those involved in an Amber Alert or Silver Alert.

In Oklahoma, state leaders are also interested in interlinking the technology across state borders to detect uninsured motorists from neighboring states who often travel on Oklahoma’s roads.

States Look to Follow Oklahoma’s Lead

Following the success of Oklahoma’s UVED Program, other states, including Florida (which ranks No. 1 in the country for the number of uninsured motorists on its roads), New York, Tennessee and Texas are considering legislation for similar programs that leverage vehicle recognition capabilities.

However, there are some distinctions to consider. First and foremost, the UVED Program does not enforce red light or speeding violations. Second, some states don’t require commercial insurance carriers to share data with state agencies, potentially limiting the ability to flag violations.

However, as states look to improve safety on the roads, assist citizens who are struggling to get affordable insurance and navigate challenging revenue environments, programs like Oklahoma’s can have a big impact. What’s more, because they use existing resources, they can be scaled quickly and cost-effectively.

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