Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell says a network of surveillance cameras could be used to identify uninsured drivers and help raise money for the state treasury.
Rendell brought up the idea last week in urging state senators to consider a range of ideas to address the $470 million-a-year revenue gap due to federal rejection of tolls on Interstate 80. The state last year sought proposals from commercial firms to set up and run an “online insurance verification system,” but no contracts have been awarded.
Under the system, cameras installed along state highways would take pictures of vehicle license plates and cross-reference them with the motorist’s insurance policy information. Those found to lack valid insurance would receive a notice to pay a fine, which a contractor would collect for a percentage of the revenue.
“Drivers without insurance put all drivers at risk,” Rendell told the Senate Transportation Committee. “For that reason alone, we should be employing that technology.”
The proposal, which the governor estimated would generate $115 million annually, is one of several ideas Rendell has come up with to generate revenue for hundreds of road and bridge projects. Other proposals include an excess profits tax on oil companies and increasing state vehicle and registration fees.
The state Senate has approved a red-light camera bill that would allow Pittsburgh, Scranton and third-class cities like Hazleton to place cameras at an unlimited number of intersections to nab red-light runners and traffic law violators. But some have expressed fears about the use of cameras to check motorists’ compliance with state laws.
“This is really scary,” Sen. John Gordner, R-27, Berwick, a member of the transportation panel who questioned where the use of surveillance technology will stop.
Samuel Marshall, president of the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania, said the system would depend on insurance companies providing real-time data about customers terminating policies or switching insurers, and the technology doesn’t exist to do that.
One major complication is that customers often use variations of their full name — a middle initial, for example — when signing official documents, Marshall said.
“It’s one of those ideas that sounds good in theory, but doesn’t hold up in practice,” he said.
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