States Are Rolling Out Massive ALPR Networks To Take Down Dangerous… Uninsured Drivers

from the traffic-enforcement-is-truly-the-new-homicide-division dept

There’s a new player in the automated license plate reader arena. Rekor Systems is a bit different. While it does sell its own cameras, it also sells software that turns existing cameras into plate readers. It recently contributed a couple of sponsored posts to Police1 touting its ability to fight all sorts of dangerous crime.

Rekor’s system makes it easy for officers to detect and apprehend stolen/wanted vehicles. But ease of use is just the beginning: By apprehending stolen/wanted cars sooner, police departments can actually prevent crime.

About three-quarters of crimes involving the use of a motor vehicle before, during or after the offense are committed using a stolen vehicle.

According to Rekor, this will also contribute to officer safety because “too many times” officers are “assaulted or even killed” during “routine roadside checks.” To be sure, the number of times this has happened is greater than zero. But it’s not the epidemic Rekor implies it is as it pitches its products. Policing in America remains a pretty safe occupation, considering the job revolves around apprehending criminals.

What kind of crime is Rekor preventing? Its other sponsored post suggests it’s not so much preventing crime as just relocating it. Somehow, the “prosperous bedroom community” of Mt. Juliet, Tennessee (pop. 35,000) has convinced itself it needs 39 Rekor cameras to police its streets. According to local cops, criminals were driving into Mt. Juliet to do crimes. And now this network of cameras is leading to dozens of arrests.

“We’ve surpassed 100 successful interceptions,” said [MJPD Captain Tyler] Chandler. “We’ve recovered over 60 stolen cars, 36 stolen plates, four stolen trailers, two missing juveniles and 40 wanted persons.”

Sounds great. But here’s what Rekor is also enabling: widespread surveillance of drivers largely for the purpose of generating revenue.

The Oklahoma District Attorneys Council launched the Uninsured Vehicle Enforcement Program (UVED) in 2018 in an attempt to clamp down on uninsured drivers. Rekor and the council tout the program as a relative improvement for the uninsured. Instead of receiving a criminal court summons and a $250 fine, uninsured motorists captured by Rekor’s cameras, which are mounted on utility poles and mobile trailers, are sent a violation notice to their home, hit with a $174 citation, and must enroll in an insurance policy through Rekor’s insurance portal. “It’s keeping that person out of the court system,” Rekor Executive Vice President Charles Deglimini told OneZero. “The District Attorney’s Council set this program up in Oklahoma to declaw this tremendous amount of friction that’s caused by uninsured motor vehicle accidents.”

It’s not so much keeping someone out of the court system as it is funneling more revenue directly to Rekor. Rather than obtain insurance using whatever method they’d prefer, drivers are forced to route their purchase through Rekor, which presumably harvests as much personal info as possible while providing this “service.”

And it’s not really a diversion from the court system. If the person can’t afford the citation or is unable to acquire insurance through Rekor’s portal, they’re still going to end up facing criminal charges. The state claims prosecutorial discretion will be exercised when people are truly unable to pay, but that’s something that tends to work a whole lot worse in practice than in theory.

For all the money that’s gone into it, the uninsured driver (surveillance) program isn’t really solving the problem it’s supposed to be addressing. Perhaps more distressingly (at least for state officials and Rekor), there hasn’t been much return on investment.

So far, the UVED program hasn’t achieved its ambitious goals. In 2015, the Insurance Information Institute estimated 10.5% of drivers were uninsured in Oklahoma. By 2019, that figure rose to 13.4%. In 2017, Sensys Gatso Group predicted that it would issue 20,000 notices per month. By the end of its two-year contract, according to Couch, about 90,300 notices had been sent in total. In 2020, Gatso announced that the program was not economically feasible because the overall enrollment rate from uninsured drivers was low. To date, Couch said, the program has enrolled “over 25,000 citizens.”

Then there’s the insurance itself. Rates often have nothing to do with how clean your driving record is. Instead, it relies on other factors like zip code, credit score, and occupation. This means that drivers in Oklahoma (and elsewhere in the nation) with low credit scores and no serious moving violations can pay more than drivers with higher credit scores and multiple violations.

Drivers aren’t driving without insurance because they’re anarchists trying to stick it to the system. In almost every case, it’s simply because they can’t afford it. Stacking fines and fees on top of preexisting money problems isn’t going to suddenly turn things around for uninsured drivers. That much can be observed in the low response rate to the citations sent out by the Rekor-powered surveillance network. And the whole things is at odds with Rekor’s sales pitches that emphasize the system’s ability to identify and take down dangerous criminals.

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Comments on “States Are Rolling Out Massive ALPR Networks To Take Down Dangerous… Uninsured Drivers”

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49 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Really?

This article isn’t talking at all about injuries caused by an uninsured driver. And simply being uninsured doesn’t necessarily make someone a bad driver.

Exactly what is so terrible about a person who has committed no crimes, except for driving without insurance?

Exactly what makes a driver who has injured someone, but is insured, better than an uninsured driver that has harmed no one?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Really?

"Exactly what is so terrible about a person who has committed no crimes, except for driving without insurance?"

Yeah, if you ignore the crime they’re committing, they’re not committing any crimes! Brilliant logic.

"Exactly what makes a driver who has injured someone, but is insured, better than an uninsured driver that has harmed no one?"

The fact that they haven’t been involved in an accident yet, is not a guarantee that they will never be involved in one. If they are involved in one, there are many problems with an uninsured driver that the victim of an accident involving an insured driver won’t have. Hence the reason why having insurance is a legal requirement to operate a vehicle under the terms of their licence.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Really?

Yeah, if you ignore the crime they’re committing, they’re not committing any crimes! Brilliant logic.

I’m not saying they didn’t do anything wrong. It’s just that OP seems to have a unusually high level of contempt for uninsured drivers, solely based on the fact that they’re uninsured.

Their anger implies that they or someone they care about was injured by an uninsured driver, but then that anger seems unreasonably applied to other uninsured drivers, whether they’ve harmed someone or not.

Again, I’m not saying that driving uninsured is good, but I don’t think someone who, at this point, hasn’t harmed anyone is deserving of "Fuck 100% of these people. The penalties here don’t even begin to fit the crime."

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Really?

"It’s just that OP seems to have a unusually high level of contempt for uninsured drivers, solely based on the fact that they’re uninsured."

Well, consider the following; Every driver jeopardizes everyone else, simply by propelling a solid ton of metal down a road at speeds which preclude any control in the face of unanticipated viriables. This society accepts in reciprocal manner as part of the social contract.

The uninsured driver is casually subjecting you to danger and leaves you with all the burden if they fuck up.

imho that does merit a great deal of contempt.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Really?

Fair point, but I’m going to feel more contempt for someone who has done harm, insured or not, than for someone who hasn’t.

I would be more likely to feel contempt toward someone who hasn’t caused harm yet but has no means to make a victim whole than for someone who has accidentally caused harm but repaired it in a responsible fashion. I have sympathy for people who need a car but can’t afford insurance, but it’s a problem that needs solving somehow (I don’t know how), rather than just expecting everyone else to shoulder the risk that person is putting on them.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Really?

"I have sympathy for people who need a car but can’t afford insurance, but it’s a problem that needs solving somehow (I don’t know how)"

Well, there’s a number of ways, from regulating insurance so that prices are kept to realistic levels, to doing something about the way that American road designs almost require you to have a car. People aren’t always going to risk driving illegally if they have an option other than the car to get where they need to be.

Those are long-term goals, of course, but in the mean time "I couldn’t afford to follow the law" is a slightly weak excuse, even as I can imagine where it’s valid for some people.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Really?

So, drink driving’s cool with you so long as they have’t caused any crashes yet?

Not at all. Driving while intoxicated is selfish and irresponsible. It’s also inherently many times more dangerous than the act of driving itself.

Driving while uninsured doesn’t add any additional danger to the act that wasn’t already there. The only difference is the financial aftermath if the uninsured driver causes an accident.

So, if I have to pick between them, I’ll choose a sober, safe uninsured driver over an insured, unsafe drunk.

(side note: There’s been the assumption that the uninsured driver is poor. That doesn’t need to be the case. What if the uninsured driver was a multi-millionaire who just happened to think insurance was dumb? Would they no longer be the horrible person you make them out to be, because they can actually pay the repair and/or hospital bill?)

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Really?

"Not at all. Driving while intoxicated is selfish and irresponsible."

But…, they haven’t caused an accident yet, so it’s OK, right? Or is there more to this issue?

"What if the uninsured driver was a multi-millionaire who just happened to think insurance was dumb?"

That makes them even more irresponsible since they can afford the insurance, and avoid personal liability, but they choose not to pay it. Oh, and if you think that such a person will just pay up in the case of an accident instead of forcing people to go through their high priced lawyers to get a single cent, you haven’t seen many millionaires.

How about, instead of finding excuses for people to not pay, you just agree that it’s the responsible thing to have insurance?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Really?

How about, instead of finding excuses for people to not pay, you just agree that it’s the responsible thing to have insurance?

I’ve already stated that uninsured driving is bad. I may not have explicitly stated elsewhere that it’s responsible to have insurance, so I’ll agree with that explicitly now as well.

I’m not questioning the dislike. I’m questioning the relative levels of dislike.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Really?

Accidents happen. The driver who “causes” a collision sometimes has no alternative action available to them to avoid something in the road, makes a poor split-second decision or whatever. It’s not all people driving drunk while speeding and texting.

So, a responsible driver gets insurance because he knows some things are beyond his control. That shows forethought and responsibility, even if he ends up in a collision.

However, an uninsured driver is gambling that he will never have a collision, hoping that it never happens to him and by extension gambling those around him. That’s irresponsible even if they have never had a collision before.

It’s fairly clear, unless you stick to the fallacy that years of no accidents mean that you’re immune to accidents tomorrow.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Really?

"Driving while uninsured doesn’t add any additional danger to the act that wasn’t already there."

False assumption. Surviving the crash but being personally bankrupted by the hospital visit IS an in no way negligible added danger.

Jeopardizing other people by driving on the road is a reciprocal agreement, because other people are allowed to jeopardize your life by driving on the same road.

Not being insured means an added danger – that of irreparably wrecking the life of an entire family over medical fees which have no upper limit.

Not having an insurance is the same as not being licensed to drive. For much the same reason. Nowhere is this clearer than in the US.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Really?

"seems unreasonably applied to other uninsured drivers, whether they’ve harmed someone or not."

No. Driving uninsured causes problems when a person crashes. The fact that they haven’t crashed yet doesn’t mean that you ignore the problems before they happen. This is does all the time for other things – seatbelts, helmets for bikes, and so on – they’re enforced because of the things they prevent in case of an accident, even if they don’t make a crash more likely. They’re enforced because they help prevent the worst outcomes of a crash if does happen. That insurance takes care of financial rather than physical safety doesn’t make it less important.

"I don’t think someone who, at this point, hasn’t harmed anyone is deserving of "Fuck 100% of these people."

Everybody has a 100% safe driving record… until their first crash. If your method of driving is "fuck everyone else, I’m taking my chances", then you deserve the same in response.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Really?

Yeah, if you ignore the crime they’re committing, they’re not committing any crimes! Brilliant logic.

My interpretation of this story is that the state basically is ignoring the crime they’re committing, and applying a similar civil offense instead. Possibly, like red-light cameras etc., to escape legal scrutiny (e.g., no "beyond a reasonable doubt", less questioning of their "portal" arrangement).

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Really?

"Exactly what makes a driver who has injured someone, but is insured, better than an uninsured driver that has harmed no one?"

In case of accident the insured driver, at least in the US, stands a good chance of being able to compensate whoever they involved in an accident fiscally.

The victim of the uninsured driver not only got hurt but may also be sitting with a crushing debt for hospital bills and a totaled car.

Hence you going on the road without an insurance means you place other people in dire risk of personal bankruptcy.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Really?

"What victim? In the question proposed, the uninsured driver has harmed no one."

Take a car on the road and you put other, unrelated motorists in jeopardy. It’s pretty fair to issue a demand that if you jeopardize other people subject only to your skill you must be covered in case your estimate of that skill proves insufficient.

You don’t get to operate heavy machinery without license and insurance for much the same reason.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Really?

As I said to PaulT above, I don’t disagree. I just don’t fully understand or agree with the bile seemingly directed at an otherwise harmless uninsured driver by OP. He appears to be claiming that all uninsured drivers are automatically bad because one uninsured driver has harmed him in some way.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Really?

"He appears to be claiming that all uninsured drivers are automatically bad because one uninsured driver has harmed him in some way."

Think about it from this pov; Every driver offers a great deal of hazard to other people, just by propelling a ton of metal at high speed. We accept this as part of the social contract, because we obtain similar right.

The uninsured driver subjects us to the same danger every other driver does, but without the means to compensate for any fuck-up they make affecting others.

So yea, some regulations are bullshit but in some cases, you ignoring those regulations means you take risks other people will have to pay for.

Same as with the seat belt. Any number of drivers who survived the collision just fine thanks to the airbag but were crippled over the guy in the back seat being thrown into their back at speed.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Really?

"In the question proposed, the uninsured driver has harmed no one."

YET.

This is the part you keep deliberately ignoring. Just because they haven’t been involved in an accident today does not mean they are not going to be involved in one tomorrow. By that time, it’s too late to get proper insurance and others will suffer as a result.

If you’re saying "well, I know I’ll never get in an accident", then you’re delusional and gambling with the fate of others, and that makes you an irresponsible prick. It’s possible that you’re right and you’ll never personally get in such an accident, but the fact that you’re willing to gamble on that means you deserve criticism.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Really?

Here’s my ranking of the issues at hand, #1 being worst:

  1. An uninsured driver has caused an accident.
  2. An insured driver has caused an accident.
  3. An uninsured driver has not caused an accident.
  4. An insured driver has not caused an accident.

My entire question has simply been that I don’t understand why #3 is worse than #2 for some of the commenters.

I’m not defending uninsured driving. I think it’s highly irresponsible. But I do think an otherwise safe driver who happens to be uninsured is deserving of less contempt (but not no contempt) than an insured driver who, for example, has totaled 3 other cars and put someone in the hospital. Why, in this case, is YET so much worse than ACTUALLY HAS for you?

Lots of people have exceeded the speed limit but haven’t caused an accident YET, but exceeding the speed limit certainly puts others at risk. Do you despise a speeding driver as much as you despise an uninsured driver? If not, why not?

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Really?

Why, in this case, is YET so much worse than ACTUALLY HAS for you?

Let’s just consider property damage. It gets much more thorny when you’re talking about serious injury or death, because money is all that can be offered in recompense, but that is often incomplete at best.

So for the simple case, an insured driver causes an accident. Their insurance pays for it, the victim is made whole, and there is no lasting damage. An uninsured driver hasn’t yet caused an accident. So from this point on, we have the case where the insured driver could potentially cause an accident, the insurance pays for it, and everyone is made whole after some variable amount of inconvenience. And the case where the uninsured driver could potentially cause an accident. Then maybe the victim has uninsured driver insurance, and maybe they do not. If they do, they have been paying this whole time for the possibility of someone else’s error. If they do not, now their car is damaged, possibly ruined, and they are left to deal with the inconvenience and cost on their own.

Accidents happen. People make mistakes, even when they’re trying to be careful. The responsible thing to do is to clean up after your own mistakes, which uninsured drivers do not do. Does that help?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Really?

The responsible thing to do is to clean up after your own mistakes, which uninsured drivers do not do. Does that help?

I absolutely agree with you. The uninsured driver is irresponsible, and shouldn’t be on the streets. It is totally justifiable to be angry with them for the potential damage they can cause.

But personally, I’m still going to be more angry with the person who has actually caused damage, even if they compensate the victim afterward.

It’s just a difference of opinion, I guess. /shrug

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Really?

"But personally, I’m still going to be more angry with the person who has actually caused damage"

You keep avoiding the fact that because accidents haven’t happened to a person in the past, that doesn’t mean they won’t happen in the future, and that when they do happen it’s too late to be responsible. It’s strange that you directly avoid the point in such a way.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Really?

"My entire question has simply been that I don’t understand why #3 is worse than #2 for some of the commenters."

Because accidents happen. Many people who died in car wrecks this year had clean driving records, too. Just because you didn’t have an accident today does not mean you won’t have one tomorrow. That’s why they’re called accidents.

"But I do think an otherwise safe driver who happens to be uninsured is deserving of less contempt (but not no contempt) than an insured driver who, for example, has totaled 3 other cars and put someone in the hospital"

What about tomorrow, when the uninsured driver gets into a situation that causes that same type of accident? It’s a possible outcome of being on the road, no matter what your track record is – the unexpected can happen. You and your psychic nature might be able to predict the future with perfect clarity, but most people can’t – hence the need for insurance.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Really?

I’m a little late to the party, but as far as the driver with insurance being just fucked, what about his insurance? Doesn’t his insurance cover uninsured motorists up to a certain amount?

I mean, if all it takes is for the other guy not to have insurance to fuck up the entire game, then it sounds like in this case neither of them have insurance. That kind of scenario would be an incentive to drive without insurance since if you do get into an accident, you would apparently be on the hook for nothing.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Really?

"I mean, if all it takes is for the other guy not to have insurance to fuck up the entire game, then it sounds like in this case neither of them have insurance."

That depends on case-by-case. In quite a lot of states or countries there’s a mandatory minimum as to what an insurance must cover, but how high the recompense is and what it covers differs depending on how powerful the lobby is. In the US you can generally assume an insurance will be very narrowly defined and certainly won’t cover the other guys hospital charges.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Really?

"You know how I know that this author and no one he cares about has been injured by an uninsured driver?"

Well, there’s a fairly wide perception that "insurance" is a scam mainly aimed at retrieving steady funds from a citizen without any intention of coming through with the money owed in case of accidents.

And looking at US history, there may be some truth to that perception.

As a european I acknowledge that owning a car mandates owning insurance for it. But then again, I’ve never had to fight tooth and claw to for months to prove my claim against an insurance agent whose bonus relies on their ability to not pay.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Perverse incentives much? Being individualized in rates actually makes perfect sense here as opposed to a wide spread tax which disproportionately benefits the worst drivers. And no this is not like health insurance at all because me say being fat and not exercising doesn’t significantly ncrease your likelyhood of injury.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: sooo just another scam like red light cameras.

Oddly enough, insurance isn’t even really mandatory in Oklahoma. One can, instead, show a deposit of at least $75,000 in "an Oklahoma financial institution". A homeowner could probably easily borrow that for a few days near license renewal, then pay it back—maybe after transferring to another family member who needs to renew. Anyway, even if one goes with insurance coverage, it only needs to cover $25000 per person injured, which in the USA could leave the victims with huge bills.

PaulT (profile) says:

"Drivers aren’t driving without insurance because they’re anarchists trying to stick it to the system. In almost every case, it’s simply because they can’t afford it."

I had to pay more for the insurance on my first car than I paid to buy the car itself. That was a pain in the ass at the time, but there’s also a clear reason for it – and I lived in the UK at the time, where if people were injured by my actions they could at least get medical care without worrying about a bill after.

Unless I’m mistaken, wouldn’t someone being injured by an uninsured driver in the US be on the hook for a huge medical bill, which they’d have to hope to claw back from the driver, whereas they would deal with the insurance company in the case they were insured? If so, that will be the reason why this is being enforced, and I don’t believe that "I can’t afford the premium so I’ll just hope I never get into a much more expensive accident" is a good excuse.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"Unless I’m mistaken, wouldn’t someone being injured by an uninsured driver in the US be on the hook for a huge medical bill, which they’d have to hope to claw back from the driver, whereas they would deal with the insurance company in the case they were insured?"

You are not mistaken. In the US even someone with health insurance can end up utterly broken simply because in an emergency the odds are good they don’t cart you off to a doctor included in your insurance network.

So you get T-boned on the road, your car is a wreck, you yourself are in traction, and because the emergency care you received wasn’t by doctors affiliated with your own insurance company you are now in the hole for 50k or more, your car a wreck, your odds of getting to your job zip, which may cost you said job on the spot given that you aren’t likely to be in a union…

The same situation in the UK or Sweden would be that what you need covered is your car because a social network exists and you don’t need to pay the health care beyond the administrative fees.

wereisjessicahyde (profile) says:

In the UK

If you’re uninsured in the UK you can’t get far without getting pinged by ANPR (as it’s called in the UK). Around 11,000 cameras plus the countless mobile ones – with around 50 million reads A DAY.

It’s been like this for about 10 years, but at least they don’t force you pay a specific insurance provider. You get a fixed penalty fine and points on your licence. Do it again though and end up in court it’s a lot more serious – unlimited fine, you can be banned and they even destroy your vehicle.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Stupid article

"I can’t wait for the author or his family to be hit by an uninsured driver to see how they excuse it then."

The same way I’m sure you’re excusing yourself over wishing physical harm to someone who wrote an article you disagree with?

I’m not sure what the point of your statement is other than "Look at me, I’m a horrible person". Feel free to clarify.

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