7,050 tickets sent to uninsured motorists, thanks to Bossier Parish license plate readers

Having your picture taken by these cameras could cost you
A ticket issued to a driver whose vehicle was uninsured. (Source: KSLA News 12)
A ticket issued to a driver whose vehicle was uninsured. (Source: KSLA News 12)

BOSSIER PARISH, LA (KSLA) - Louisiana has some of the most expensive auto insurance premiums in the country, if not the highest. Experts say it's because a large number of those uninsured motorists are hitting the road every day.

It's a problem Bossier Parish officials are working to combat by using License plate readers that ticket people for driving without auto insurance.

"There was a picture taken somewhere in Bossier of my license plate for no insurance."

Quanesha Green is one of 7,050 people who received a $200 ticket in the mail for driving without auto insurance.

"$200 of my hard earned money," Green said.

Green says price tag aside, she feels the ticket is targeting the wrong person.

"I don't see how if we're not driving the car, how can we get the ticket? Yes, it's my car, but if someone else is driving it, if you were to get pulled over that person would get the ticket regardless if it was my car or not," Green said.

"The law is, it's the responsibility of the owner of the car," said Bossier Parish District Attorney Schuyler Marvin. "The goal is if I gotta have liability coverage on my car, I'm going to make sure you do and everybody else that's driving on the road does. 22% of people don't have liability insurance and that's a big number in my opinion."

The small, nearly unnoticeable scanners were installed by Bossier Parish Sheriff Julian Whittington in April of 2017. They can be found at intersections, on utility poles, and on the vehicles of Bossier Sheriff's deputies.

"Their purpose is to find and to read plates and when it finds one that comes back with an uninsured motorist that citation is processed and mailed to the person with no insurance," said Sheriff Whittington.

On the other side of the bridge, Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator says motorists who drive through their neighborhoods won't be getting tickets like these in the mail anytime soon.

"Sending somebody a $200 ticket in the mail from a picture in a license plate… I don't know.. Its just different strokes for different folks," said Sheriff Steve Prator. "I have an issue with the fact that law enforcement is driving by a vehicle with no insurance and not taking action on that vehicle."

Whittington says it's not that simple.

"In fact, in Louisiana, it's not a primary offense, you can't just pull somebody over on the side of the road simply because they do not have insurance, usually it's in conjunction with another, most of the time the speeding or red light or whatever,"  Whittington said.

"I realize that the information is going straight to a private company and then straight to the D.A and then a letter sent to the people, it's kind of like law enforcement is tattling on them," said Sheriff Prator. 
The private company called Louisiana Public Safety Consortium coughed up $5.3 million to install license plate readers in 9 parishes, Bossier being the first.

In return, they take a cut of the fines generated by the bill and divide the rest 60/40 between the district attorney's office and the sheriff's office.

"How much money has it generated? The sheriff's office received 140,000," said Whittington.

And with 7,050 tickets issued at $200 a pop, it's estimated more than $1 million in total revenue was generated solely from drivers with no insurance.

Its $200 Green says would have looked much better in her pocket.

"Have you since fixed the problem with your insurance? I have fixed that… I cant go through that again… and I haven't been back to Bossier… I'll stay in Shreveport."

Sheriff Whittington admits that some people may have received tickets on vehicles with auto insurance.

"There have been some false ones written, just like a deputy on the side of the road, he doesn't go to Baton Rouge and go through the whole department of motor vehicles down there, he relies on the information on the computer to say that you have or don't have insurance. These readers do the same thing," Whittington said.

If this happens to you, you must prevent proof of coverage to the Bossier Parish Sheriff's Office, from there, if proven, they will work with you to get the fee removed.

Authorities say the money generated from the program will be spent on maintenance and crime prevention efforts.

And they plan on adding more license plate readers throughout the parish soon.

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