OKLAHOMA CITY - Uninsured drivers across the state are in for a rude awakening. A new verification system will show police officers, prosecutors and court clerks whether you have current insurance or not.
Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety said about 600,000 Oklahomans were driving without insurance last year. However, they believe this new database will fix that issue.
Driving without insurance is against the law, but still so many Oklahomans do it.
“We've got one in four drivers driving around without insurance in Oklahoma,” said Buddy Combs, Deputy Insurance Commissioner. “That's a huge problem for everybody who purchases insurance.”
“It's not fair for someone to be driving out there, to be driving a motor vehicle,” said Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee. “It's not a right of which to drive a car in Oklahoma; it's a privilege.”
Sharp believes the issue stems from the volatility of the jobs in Oklahoma
“You may be in a job for 2-3 weeks then off for two months,” Sharp said. “Agriculture, there are some vulnerabilities here and, of course, many Oklahomans are minimum wage and you have to make the decision whether you put meals on the table that night or you pay your insurance.”
However, Senate Bill 115 will make it easier for law enforcement officers to catch those uninsured drivers. Insurance companies will update the system every 24 hours whether you paid, haven't paid or canceled your insurance.
That information will then be available during traffic stops.
“We think, by getting law enforcement on the side of the road during a traffic stop, real-time data on whether or not this person has insurance is going to drive down the rate of uninsured drivers because we're actually going to be able to get the people when they're stopped on the side of the road,” Combs said.
“The people of Oklahoma want a compulsory insurance verification act, so this is to make sure you are keeping up with the law, and we either have to repeal that act or we have to enforce it and this is the means to enforce it,” Sharp said.
Sharp said it will be costly if you choose to ignore it.
“The cost of repairing a car is tremendous. Personal injury, hospitalization... all of this would be on your back of which the average person in Oklahoma, no matter whether they're rich or poor, this is a traumatic hit to them,” he said.
The new system is expected to be up and running no later than November.