New Cameras Will Scan License Plates, Automatically Fine Uninsured Drivers Under Oklahoma Program

Studies suggest that one out of every four drivers in Oklahoma is uninsured, and now prosecutors in the state are turning to new technology they hope will address that while also bringing in new revenue.

"It affects everybody one way or another," Tyler Loughlin, chief of operations at the Oklahoma Insurance Department, told KTLA sister station KFOR in Oklahoma City in 2016. "If you get in a wreck, how are you going to get compensated for the medical expenses you incur?"

Last year, state lawmakers approved a measure that would allow the use of automated license plate readers to crack down on uninsured drivers, KFOR reported. The license plate readers will compare vehicle tags scanned with a list of insured drivers provided by the Oklahoma Insurance Department.

The cameras will be able to detect uninsured vehicles – and then vehicle owners will be mailed a $184 citation, regardless of who was driving the car, according to Oklahoma Watch, a nonprofit investigative journalism operation.

Drivers who pay the fee will avoid having a charge of driving without insurance on their permanent record. But if the fine isn't paid, the information will be sent to district attorneys for prosecution.

Last week, Oklahoma finalized a deal with Massachusetts-based Gatso USA to set up those license plate scanners on highways around the state, bringing the program closer to being realized.

Gatso executives say they expect the system to issue about 20,000 citations a month, starting as early as next year.

“The first program of its kind in the country is certain to attract scrutiny,” Gatso states in a plan for the program, according to Oklahoma Watch. “Our program management is designed to limit the number of issued citations in the opening months, in concert with an inclusive and extensive public awareness campaign.”

The company will receive $80 of each fine for the first two years, but that will then drop to $74, according to a contract approved by the state. The company will receive $68 of every fine after five years of use.

The program will be overseen by the Oklahoma District Attorneys Council rather than police departments, and the district attorneys' offices are expected to receive millions in revenue from the citations. The council, which supports the state's 27 DA's offices, has seen its funding reduced in recent years, and the new program will provide much-needed revenue, Oklahoma Watch reported.

The National Conference of State Legislatures tracked dozens of similar proposals – for automated license plate readers – that were weighed in 18 states last year, when Oklahoma's law was approved. Most failed.

Fourteen states have legislation concerning the use of such readers, with most regulations related to privacy and use of the readers' data.

KTLA's Melissa Pamer contributed to this article.