The Rhode Island House of Representatives corporations committee, on a vote of 7-2, passed the proposed Rhode Island Electronic Confirmation and Compliance System Act, which sought to provide a way for highway surveillance cameras to ticket uninsured motorists.
Under the provisions of the bill, an automatic license plate recognition system would electronically record license plate images in two seconds or less. After which, the system would verify the insurance details of the car owner with that particular license plate number. If the vehicle had a proper automobile insurance policy or if the system failed to establish concrete proof of non-compliance by the owner of the vehicle, the system would erase the record of the license plate number.
If there is evidence of non-compliance on the part of the vehicle’s owner, on the other hand, he or she would be subjected to fines that could go as high as $120. Fines that are collected would be divided equally between the state and the highway’s project contractor. Legislators estimated that both parties can expect earnings of around $15 million annually.
The bill also required that the cameras be placed on stationary structures (on walls or on top of posts) at all times. These cameras could not be installed on moving objects (such as police cruisers) and would not be used to collect tolls.
Rhode Island Representative Robert B. Jacquard (Democrat from North Kingstown), who authored the proposed legislation, has said since there are already surveillance cameras that monitor the occurrence of vehicular accidents, it is now time for monitoring systems to look for other kinds of road or driving violations.
“It’s no different than a red light camera. It’s just looking for a different violation,” Jacquard said in an interview with ArsTechnica.com.
The bill, which had already been approved at the committee level, still needs approval at the plenary floor, plus the approval of a similar measure at the Rhode Island Senate, before it can be enacted into law. With the Rhode Island legislative session concluding in just a few days, there is a possibility that this bill might not make it in time.
The bill has nationwide impact even though it was introduced by our country’s smallest state. For starters, it seeks to allow the state of Rhode Island to have access into states’ databases to get a look at their vehicle registrations and insurance status. (Related: 5 Car Insurance Saving Tips For Young Drivers.)
Similar versions of the bill have been filed in different states across the country over the years, but so far not one initiative has proven to be successful. Former Rhode Island House Speaker John Harwood filed a similar measure in Connecticut.
The insurance industry voiced their opposition to the measure.
Property Casualty Insurers Association of America‘s vice president of state government relations Frank O’ Brien said Rhode Island has just passed a law that mandates insurance companies to report discrepancies with regard to their policies. He also said other states might have a problem with sharing information of drivers who are registered under them due to privacy concerns.
“This bill is like a zombie. It rises from the grave and begins to walk around at the end of each session. It’s really difficult to see how the information exchange would work,” O’ Brien said in an interview with ProvidenceJournal.com.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island and the Division of Motor Vehicles also oppose the proposal.
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