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Oklahoma Motorists: Beware Insurance Bill

March 18, 2010

After considering the threat posed by another layer of monitoring, and surveillance as traffic cameras come on line, Oklahomans would do well to contact their state senators to KILL this BILL.  Sen. John Ford- 405-521-5634

OPEN LETTER from Alex Schuttenberg to GOP leaders and voters:

I need your help to kill a bill introduced by our own Steve Martin, whom I have supported and would count as a friend.  But this bill is terrible.  And it gets worse when you actually read it, as I have.

It’s House Bill 2331, ostensibly to get people without insurance off the road, and it will do some of that.  But it will sweep up a lot of us who really are insured as well, and subject us to much hassle, having our car seized, towed, impounded, possibly our driver’s licenses seized, fines and/or jail time.  And all because it elevates a “new” on-line insurance verification system into some god-like creature which alone determines if your insurance is “valid and current”.

I’ll let the proposed law speak for itself:

Section 1, paragraph 9:  Any law enforcement officer, to establish compliance with the Compulsory Insurance Law:
a.  during a traffic stop or accident investigation, shall access information from the online verification system to verify the current validity of the policy described on a security verification form produced by the operator of each motor vehicle during the traffic stop or accident investigation or
b.  at any other time, may access information from the online verification system and, if compliance is not confirmed, stop the operator of the motor vehicle and verify the current validity of the policy described on a security verification form produced by the operator.  If compliance is not confirmed for the policy described on the security verification form producedor if no security verification form is produced, the officer shall issue a citation to the operator for failure to comply with the Compulsory Insurance Law.”

Got it so far?  If for some reason you are stopped and if you don’t have your security verification form.  Or you do have the form, the officer checks in the verification system and for some reason you’re not there.  Either way you’re given a ticket for “failing to comply”.  Then look what happens.

Section 4, amendatory, paragraph A1:  An owner or operator who fails to comply with the Compulsory Insurance Law, or who fails to produce for inspection a valid and current security verification form or equivalent form…. shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be subject to a fine of not more than $250 or imprisonment for not more than 30 days, or by both ….. and shall be subject to suspension of the driving privilege …… Upon issuing a citation under this paragraph, the law enforcement officer issuing the citation shall seize the vehicle being operated by the person and shall cause the vehicle to be towed and stored …… if the officer has probably cause to believe that the vehicle is not insured as required…”

OK.  So you get stopped, and even if you have a valid insurance form, if the officer checks it and IT’S NOT IN THE SYSTEM through no fault of your own, you get ticketed, your car gets towed and impounded, and you’ll have to go to court to prevent a fine/jail time and losing your license, EVEN THOUGH THE FAULT IS IN THE VERIFICATION SYSTEM.  Because that’s what the officer has to go on, the verification system.  And it’s “probable cause” if you’re not in the system.

You see, the form you carry isn’t finally all that you need.  All that matters is this god-like system.  But surely, you say, the system is really really accurate.  No, actually an Insurance Council study in 2008 showed it to be 60% accurate.  Steve has been told 90% and that’s the number he gives out.  But it’s a snapshot.  Entries come and go as people’s insurance is renewed and people change companies.  But surely there is some requirement in the bill, some way of ensuring the system is 99+% accurate, or surely there is some report that has to be given to the legislature ….. etc.  Nope.  But surely, from the standpoint of a citizen there is some way for me to check whether I am in the system?  The bill addresses that too:

Section 1, amendatory, A2:  “The verification system shall be accessible …. by authorized personnel of the Department, the Tax Commission, the courts, law enforcement personnel…..”

In other words, only the authorities get to see what’s in this.  As for the common people:

A8:   “Information contained in the verification system shall not be considered a public record.”

So there.  And if you go to court to plead that you actually have insurance, then:

Section 4, 2C:  “… if proof of security verification is presented to the court by the assigned court appearance date, the court shall access information from the online verification system, and if compliance is confirmed, the charge shall be dismissed …….”

In other words if by some mistake you are not in the system so you have to go to court to show you have insurance, then the court will access the system to verify that you have insurance.  Anybody else see the flaw in this logic?

As a final insult the act provides that you can’t go to court to address the injustice of whatever is produced by this bill, as long as everybody acts in “good faith”, and regardless of the accuracy of the system or any failure to maintain it beyond its 60 accuracy or 90% or whatever it is.  My guess is you won’t even get your towing and storage charges back after the state has taken your vehicle.

But competence is a big concern.

For almost 20 years I had paid child support through DHS (no, I’m not a deadbeat dad – assignment to DHS is automatic).  And because in compliance with the order I paid different amounts in the summer versus the rest of the year, the DHS accounting system couldn’t keep up (even though it supposedly was “computerized”), and so every year I would get a notice from DHS telling me I was in arrears and threatening to seize my tax refund (which they did, once) and report me to the credit bureau (which I don’t know if they did).  And then I would have to deal with the Osage County sheriff’s department to prove I wasn’t in arrears, because DHS was too busy to do it themselves.  And the sheriff’s department was actually OK to work with, other than the fact that they go so overburdened with phone calls because of all the incompetence in DHS that you could no longer go to them directly.  So you had to call some state worker in OKC who would have neither the
information nor the authority to deal with DHS errors, but who could take your phone number so that your sheriff’s department case worker could call you later.  And of course the sheriff’s department had no authority or ability to correct any DHS errors, even if they had wanted to.  Anyway, and throughout those 20 years DHS never did correct their bookkeeping errors (imagine, if you will, your credit card company keeping 20 years of errors on your account).  Once I even had to go to court to prove my innocence and the case worker from the sheriff’s office and I showed the judge all the DHS errors and I pleaded with him to take some action that would force them to correct them …… but, to no avail.  Finally, sweet relief, my kids turned 18.  The lesson I learned is that once the state has in its hands on a god-like verification system, it won’t matter how much it’s in error.  They won’t fix it.  Believe me.  I’ve been there.

And here it comes again, courtesy of Steve Martin’s bill.

Yes, I’ve talked to Steve.  Part of it was that we just disagreed, and as he said the bill has already passed the House with a large majority.  I told him a large part of my concern was accountability of the state for what they have to do (and told him my DHS experience).  He related that he hadn’t seen a bill that contained such a clause and wouldn’t know what it looked like, and if it was included it would probably kill the bill (am I the only one who wants government to be as accountable as what they demand of us, or is that an outmoded concept?).  And partly I got the impression that everything would be relatively all right if you actually had insurance, an impression that was dispelled when I got a chance to actually read the bill, which by the way is at http://www.scribd.com/doc/26795544/HB-2331-Rep-Steve-Martin

Please, write letters, talk to people.  Stop this monster.  I’ve seen it.  I promise you, once it gets unleashed, you won’t like it a bit.

Sincerely,
Alex Schuettenberg
918.333.3774

Great letter, Alex.  In addition to contacting our senators,  joining a fighting organization like the National Motorists Assoc., a traffic justice and citizen’s rights group, would serve the cause of freedom well.  Go to www.motorists.org

Learn more and see how you can get your speeding ticket paid by standing up to unreasonable enforcement tactics.

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