OPINION: What in the world is that?
By Steve Coulter
There’s an unusual looking vehicle popping up in communities like Tuttle, Mustang, Choctaw and Midwest City. It’s not a police car and it’s not a storm chaser. These vehicles are small SUV’s with an odd looking black device mounted on top.
The bizarre looking vehicles are parked in random towns all across Oklahoma. Who’s in the vehicles and what are they up too? It’s made me and many others curious. I decided to investigate and gets some answers.
What is that on top of those mysterious vehicles? I found out. That device is a single mounted camera and it’s taking photographs of license plates for the District Attorneys Council. These vehicles are out scanning for uninsured motorists.
The Uninsured Vehicle Enforcement Diversion (UVED) Program is a state-wide initiative aimed at reducing the number of uninsured vehicles on Oklahoma roadways.
I talked to the lead prosecutor to find out more about the vehicles and this program.
“There are four vehicles that have the cameras mounted on top of them and drive around and park in safe locations with higher traffic. They have automated license plate reader cameras mounted to the top of their vehicles and they scan those license plates,” said UVED Prosecutor Amanda Arnall Couch.
Oklahoma’s Department of Public Safety estimates 26 percent of vehicles on Oklahoma roads are uninsured. Car insurance is required by law in Oklahoma.
The purpose of the UVED Program is to divert cases of insurance non-compliance away from the court system. They are trying to keep Oklahomans away from criminal proceedings by notifying the owners of the potential for charges before law enforcement intervenes.
“We can work with you through our Diversion Program instead of sending you to court. It’s better for you, it’s better for the court, it’s better for everybody but defense attorneys. The enrollment fee for the program is $174. Which is significantly less than you would spend on a ticket in court,” said Couch.
There’s only one requirement for the Program. You have to prove you got insurance and then keep it for two years.
The UVED Program moves really fast once they scan an uninsured vehicle.
“I have law enforcement officers that review all the pictures. We are usually reviewing pictures the same day. We’ll send out notices and you’ll have 30 days to respond,” said Couch.
If an uninsured vehicle were to be pulled over in a traffic stop, the fine would be $250, with possible additional penalties of license suspension and 30 days in jail.
The UVED Program allows the vehicle owner to agree to avoid a criminal case by paying a reduced fine, and committing to the terms of the Program. Vehicle owners completing the Program will not have the event added to their permanent driving record.
Moving forward the UVED Program will deploy a trailer-mounted camera as well as fixed-pole cameras in high-traffic areas enabling the mobile units to provide coverage in all jurisdictions of Oklahoma.
Plate information is only retained if the vehicle is out of compliance. For more information, you can contact the UVED Program at email@example.com.