By Duane D. Stanford
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The state has suspended the license plates of more than 77,000
Georgia vehicles believed to be uninsured.
If caught driving without a valid tag, the owners face a
misdemeanor charge punishable by up to a year in jail and
a $1,000 fine.
The suspensions are part of Georgia's high-tech crackdown
on uninsured motorists. Georgia law requires all drivers to
have liability coverage. The state recently began tracking
auto insurance policies using a computer database updated
by insurance companies. The system flags vehicles registered
for license plates but not insured.
Previously, uninsured drivers were caught only when stopped
by police for other infractions.
Warnings and $25 fines went out last month
to owners of vehicles missing from the database. The letters
gave owners until May 1 to respond. The state also has suspended
license tags for 25,000 vehicles whose owners ignored fines
imposed last month for allowing their insurance to lapse longer
than 24 hours, which also is against the law. There are more
than 7 million registered vehicles in Georgia.
In cases where a car has been sold, traded to a car dealer
or wrecked and considered a total loss by the insurance company,
drivers can sign a sworn statement at their county tax commissioner's
office saying they no longer own the vehicle. The fine then
would be waived, the state said.
Other proof of insurance, such as a declarations page, is
accepted at county tag offices, but drivers still must get
on the database within 30 days. Failing to do so has resulted
in an additional 11,000 tag suspensions, officials said.