(Billings, MT – YPR) – Montana will soon join about 8 other states where law enforcement can immediately verify whether a driver has liability insurance as required by state laws.
“It’s one more tool in our tool box to make sure people comply with the law,” says Col. Mike Tooley, chief of the Montana Highway Patrol (MHP).
He says the instant verification system will allow troopers out on the highway to know immediately if a motorist has insurance and whether the proof of insurance card is legitimate. “In the past it would be pretty easy to show a card that was maybe manufactured illegally or maybe someone bought insurance and turned right around and cancelled it and still had the card.”
On May 21, 2012, MHP troopers in the southwestern district will begin using the new Montana Insurance Verification System (MTIVS). Soon after, MHP troopers statewide will have access to the system. By late summer or early fall, MTIVS will be available to all Montana law enforcement agencies.
Tooley adds the system will provide a convenience for drivers who have insurance but cannot find proof. If they are given a citation, that driver will have to appear in court to show proof of insurance. A ticket for not having insurance can cost up to $285 for the first offense.
“It’s a common sense tool for Montanans who expect their neighbors to carry insurance, like the law requires,” says Brenda Nordlund, administrator of the state’s Motor Vehicle Division. “They (Montanans) expect that technology will give you the ability to verify insurance without having to fumble through that jockey box.”
Law enforcement official say studies indicate about 85% of Montanans comply with the automotive liability insurance requirement.
State Justice Department officials say Montana joins California Wyoming, Utah, Texas, South Carolina, Florida, and Washington, DC in having an instant insurance verification system for law enforcement.
Nordlund says many states have some element of insurance reporting, but it tends to be cumbersome, expensive and quickly outdated.
“When I’ve talked about what Montana is doing, I’ve described us as going from 0 to 60 (MPH) because we’ve never had a reporting system from the insurance companies,” she says. “This is the most streamlined manner of verifying insurance because we’re not going to a database. Our inquiry goes over the web directly to the insurance company to say, ‘confirmed’ or ‘not.’”
The 2009 Montana Legislature authorized MITIVS. The system has an annual cost of about $539,000. Motorists pay for the system through a fee tacked on for a license plate.