Troopers to check vehicle insurance status on stops
by Wyoming Highway Patrol
May 31, 2009
Beginning June 1, Highway Patrol troopers and other law enforcement officers will automatically get information on the insurance status of the vehicle every time they make a traffic stop or call in a license plate check on a private vehicle registered in Wyoming.
The automatic notification will be provided through WYDOT’s online insurance verification system to give officers an additional tool to use in determining if vehicles have valid insurance.
State law requires all vehicles registered in Wyoming to be insured, but the best statistics available indicate about 13 percent of the private motor vehicles in Wyoming are uninsured.
"The problem that we’re seeing is people get insurance and then cancel it the next day or 30 days later," said Marianne Zivkovich, WYDOT driver license supervisor. "Now law enforcement is going to have another tool to validate whether the insurance card a driver shows them is still valid. They won’t use that as the ultimate factor in determining whether to issue a citation, but that will be one of the things they’ll be able to use."
Drivers cited for failure to show proof of insurance have seven days to demonstrate in court that they have coverage. Anyone not insured faces potential penalties of up to a $750 fine and six months in jail.
The insurance verification program has been in operation since July 1 of last year, but until now has been used primarily in crash investigations. Now the insurance companies that operate in Wyoming have their databases and response times improved enough that the system will be able to provide immediate information for any traffic stop or license plate inquiry.
"Ninety-two percent of the companies that write in Wyoming are in compliance, so we just have about 8 percent that we’re still working with," Zivkovich said. "It makes it a little bit safer for officers on a traffic stop to get that information as soon as possible, so we require the information be back from the insurance company database in five seconds."
Any insurance company that doesn’t have its database in compliance by June 1 runs the risk of exposing some of its policyholders to the inconvenience of having to go to court to demonstrate they have coverage, because the company database did not provide that information to WYDOT.
Companies not making progress toward complying with the law also face the potential of penalties imposed by the Wyoming Insurance Department.
Wyoming is one of only two states with a real-time online insurance verification system in operation. The system was mandated by the Legislature, and WYDOT worked with the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, Insurance Industry Committee on Motor Vehicle Administration, VeriSol and Insure-Rite to create a system capable of verifying insurance with the 134 companies that provide coverage in Wyoming.
Drivers are required to show proof of insurance to get vehicle license plates, so the county treasurers who issue those plates and the courts that rule on failure to show proof of insurance citations will have the option of tying into the verification system in the future.