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First is not always best: Innovative DMV program cannot assess who has auto insurance


By Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau: The director of Nevada’s Department of Motor Vehicles had a surprising announcement for Nevada’s motorists yesterday.

Bruce Breslow, the DMV’s new director, said that the department has had no effective way to tell who has insurance and who doesn’t.

During the past few months, this meant that many Nevada residents received postcards in the mail asking them to verify their insurance online or face hundreds of dollars in fines. For some, like this man who told his story in the Las Vegas Review Journal, getting untangled from the mishap ate up hours of time.

So what’s the deal at the DMV?

This past year, the department moved to an electronic-only system for insurers to send auto insurance verification to the state. When the program was implemented during 2010, it made Nevada the first in the nation to move their system online.

In a state consistently low in the rankings for health and education, first can seem like a good thing. But the Nevada LIVE program jumped the gun.

“To turn it on before 90 percent of the companies were online was a serious mistake,” Breslow said.

At present, he said, more than half of the insurance companies are not web-based. Breslow has resorted to a sending a letter to insurance companies. The first line states that many insurance agents “may not have been aware of the Nevada LIVE program.”

To gain further compliance with a law that these agents apparently did not know about, the letter informs companies that they must be web-based by July 1, 2011 to comply with Nevada’s law.

By that time, he said, Nevada should have a cutting-edge system.

“When this is solved, we’ll be the first state to have done this,” he said. “We’ll get an award, and all the other states will want to copy it.”

Nonetheless, the legislators to whom Breslow addressed at a legislative budget subcommittee yesterday seemed vexed.

“I’m really frustrated about this,” said Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee. “This Legislature placed an awful lot of confidence in the DMV to get this program up and running. … We were assured that this program was going to take care of business.”

Breslow began work as director just this year, meaning the origins of this problem belong to his predecessor, Edgar Roberts.

Breslow said he’s spent “18 of his 22” days on the job examining the flaws in the Nevada LIVE program.

“I want to look you straight in the eye and say ‘this is a problem,'” he said to legislators.

Smith was still not amused. She said she would have appreciated prior notice.

“This cost a lot of money. This caused a lot of heartache to our residents as well,” she said.

There were hints that something was amiss this past year.

Breslow, however, explained the full breadth of the problem just yesterday.

The Nevada LIVE program was passed during the 2009 legislative session, but has been operational for less than one year. It was followed by a rejected idea from former Gov. Jim Gibbons that called for installing traffic cameras to catch uninsured motorists on the state’s highways.

Smith said she expects Breslow to submit a report later this legislative session detailing what went wrong with the Nevada LIVE system.

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