Oklahoma has apparently been toying with the idea of using traffic cameras to ticket drivers of cars that aren’t insured:
Meacham said legislators should get the appropriate language passed during next year’s session. Also by then, technology may be in place to allow a company to have the ability to check insurance verification data of all 50 states.
The Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has voiced concerns about the proposal, saying privacy rights of Oklahomans could be violated.
In the meantime, state and local law officers will continue to use Oklahoma’s computerized system that lets law officers know in real time whether vehicles licensed in the state are covered by qualifying liability insurance. It’s been estimated about 20 percent of Oklahoma motorists are driving vehicles without liability insurance.
I support this plan entirely as unlike with speeding and red light camera enforcement, lack of insurance is a law that I never break intentionally or unintentionally. Okay, that’s not really why.
Here at Hit Coffee, we are skeptical of a lot of traffic camera activity. This, however, I don’t actually mind so much. The primary arguments against red-light and speeding cameras is that the tickets are often trumped up with traffic engineering designed not for safety but for revenue-generation. If you want to catch people speeding you simply rig the speed limits by making them artificially low or by having sudden drops in the speed limit at places where it’s difficult to slow down and/or speed limit signs and cops are not particularly easy to see. You can rig red light cameras by shortening yellow lights. Red light cameras have the additional disadvantage of having debatable safety returns (but not debatable revenue returns). Oh, and in both cases you don’t know who is driving the car so you could be ticketing the wrong person.
Insurance, though, is something of a different matter. Either the car is insured or you are not. It doesn’t matter who is driving it. The only way you can rig the system is by having incomplete information and then ticketing drivers blindly and giving them the burden of proof to demonstrate that they are insured. That’s a bit of a concern, but not much of one. Oklahoma has actually put their plans on hold because they don’t have great access to the data. They’re working on it. I get the sense that if they tried to move forward by saying they only update their information quarterly, they’re likely to run into *a lot* of resistance. But absent that, I do not share the concerns of the ACLU that there is a serious infringement of liberty here. When driving on the public road, we do not really have a reasonable expectation of privacy when it comes to checking license plates and whatnot. Nor is having records as to who is and is not insured a particular privacy concern.
In fact, I think that perhaps they should go a step further and also run checks for vehicle registration. That way we can put an end to Steve Jobs’s scofflaw ways should he ever make his way to the OK state.