Oklahoma to begin using high-tech scanners to find – and fine – uninsured drivers

Oklahoma drivers, beware. If you don’t have car insurance, you will be caught and fined.

The state will begin using high-tech scanners to find all of its uninsured drivers. Those caught will be fined $184 and could be prosecuted if they fail to pay up.

The state’s District Attorneys Council announced this week it has finalized a deal with the Massachusetts-based Gatso USA to set up the scanners along highways around the state.

The automated scanners will able to detect uninsured vehicles by matching them to a list by the Oklahoma Insurance Department – and a citation will be mailed out to the car owners, Oklahoma Watch reported.

Drivers who pay the fee will avoid having a charge of driving without insurance on their permanent record. Those who don’t pay the fine will be prosecuted by the district attorney.

Gatso USA, which specializes in red-light-running and speeding detection systems, said it expects to issue as much as 20,000 citations a month starting as early as next year.

The program is part of the Uninsured Vehicle Enforcement Diversion Program approved by the state lawmakers in 2016. It seeks to reduce the number of uninsured motorists across the state.

“It affects everybody one way or another,” Tyler Loughlin, chief of operations at the Oklahoma Insurance Department, told News 4 in 2016. “If you get in a wreck, how are you going to get compensated for the medical expenses you incur?”

According to the agreement with Gatso USA, the company will receive $80, or 43 percent, of each fine for the first two years. That will drop to $74 and then to $68 after five years of use.

The program will be overseen by the District Attorneys Council rather than law enforcement. Estimates of how much the state’s 27 district attorneys’ offices will receive from the citations were not provided.

According to Watch Oklahoma, implementation of the cameras will take some time and testing. Initially approximately 26 cameras will be installed in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas to get traffic counts and gauge noncompliance during the first year.

Another 10 cameras will be installed throughout the rest of the state.

“The first program of its kind in the country is certain to attract scrutiny,” Gatso said in a statement. “Our program management is designed to limit the number of issued citations in the opening months, in concert with an inclusive and extensive public awareness campaign.”

There are no startup costs to the state government, Watch Oklahoma reported.

Trent Baggett, executive coordinator of the District Attorneys Council, told Watch Oklahoma that while the number of cameras is relatively low, they are targeting high-traffic area where more vehicle plates can be scanned.

“It’s not envisioned to be a circumstance where there’s going to be a camera every five miles down the road on every single road in Oklahoma,” he said. “We anticipate having them moved around the state and they would be in some fairly high-traffic areas. It doesn’t do a whole lot of good to have one of these set up in a place where there’s not a lot of traffic.”

He said the council will determine how the funding from the citations will be dispersed among district attorneys.