|New DMV rules have caused a lot of customer problems at county Sheriff's offices, who received notification of the change on June 1.|
The DMV says additional verification will make sure all state drivers are properly insured.
By Jared Hunt
Daily Mail Capitol Reporter
The state Division of Motor Vehicles is starting to implement a new system designed to make sure all state drivers are properly insured, to the potential benefit of law-abiding motorists.
The DMV has been sending out additional information with all registration renewal forms asking drivers to make sure to bring a certificate of insurance or mail a copy of the front of the insurance card when they renew their vehicle registration.
Officials are asking for the insurance cards so they can begin inputting driver insurance information into the agency's new Electronic Insurance Verification Program.
Under state law, all West Virginia vehicle owners are required to have auto insurance. However, many drivers still go without.
In 2010, the Legislature passed a bill setting up the new electronic system as a way to curb the number of uninsured drivers by replacing the DMV's current system, which is entirely paper based. That method made it difficult to monitor which drivers were current on insurance.
"This new system will replace that paper system with an electronic system that allows us to work better and more efficiently with what we have within our resources," DMV deputy commissioner Steve Dale said.
Customers who don't bring in their insurance card can still fill out auto insurance information on the standard form the DMV has been using, but Dale said bringing an insurance card to DMV offices helps save time.
It also could boost accuracy in the system by ensuring the DMV is getting the information directly from the insurance card and makes sure the proper policy and insurance carrier number is matched with the person's Vehicle Identification Number.
The DMV has contracted with Salt Lake City-based Insur-Rite to install the system. The agency is paying the company $600,000 a year for three years to have the system set up by the Jan. 1, 2014, deadline.
Dale said the new system would help officials reduce the number of uninsured drivers. It's estimated that one in seven drivers in the state does not have insurance.
"Our mission and our legislative mandate is to establish systems where we can find the uninsured motorist and make them go get insurance because it's not fair to the majority of us who pay our premiums," Dale said.
Dale said the new system, once it's set up, will link with the state's insurance providers' databases and be able to check a person's insurance in three ways.
First, when someone comes in to renew a registration or transfer a license plate, DMV officials can use the system to check the status of their insurance.
The DMV will also be able to run reports on its complete vehicle system database of 1.3 million vehicles against the new system to see who has insurance and who doesn't.
The third would occur whenever a law enforcement officer runs someone's license plate through the current database.
The law enforcement system would be linked to the DMV system, and officers would instantly know whether the person has insurance regardless of whether they can produce an insurance card.
Dale said that could help eliminate the problem of motorists purchasing insurance simply to get the card and then canceling it later to avoid paying.
"We've found that, in other states, these types of systems have reduced the rates of the uninsured motorist," he said.
According to a report from Insur-Rite, since the state of Utah began using the electronic database in 1995, the percentage of insured drivers in that state has fallen from 23.1 percent to 3.7 percent.
While he didn't have any studies to estimate the impact on auto insurance rates, Dale said it's possible reducing the number of uninsured drivers in the state could lead to lower insurance premiums.
"Any time you can drop the number of people who are operating without insurance, it's going to be a great help to those who are abiding by the law and operating with insurance," he said.
The Electronic Insurance Verification Program is just one aspect of the DMV's overall modernization effort.
Dale said in the coming years, they hope to roll out a system where customers can renew many things like their vehicle registration online.
He said there are a few other measures the DMV needs to implement before it can bring the system online.
"A couple of pieces are still missing," he said. "One piece is the personal property tax requirement because we're not totally connected to all the counties yet."
The agency needs that personal property tax information to ensure all customers are up to date on property taxes before renewing vehicle registrations.