angie.thompson@gaflnews.com



TIFTON -- Georgia motorists should make sure before Saturday that the Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) on their vehicles' registration cards or tag receipts match the VIN on their automobile insurance cards.

Beginning Feb. 1, 2003, the ink-and-paper insurance cards motorists have been required by law to carry won't be accepted as proof of valid insurance.

Tag offices will rely solely on a new statewide computer database to verify whether or not a person applying for a tag is properly insured.

Local law enforcement personnel who make traffic stops and handle traffic accident reports are strongly urging motorists to continue carrying the paper cards.

Two House Bills passed in the 2002 legislative session created the Georgia Electronic Insurance Compliance System (GEICS). According to the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety (DMVS), the law was intended to allow it, law enforcement agencies and county tax commissioners to quickly verify automobile insurance coverage and "crack down on uninsured drivers."

According to DMVS, a ploy often used by drivers to avoid paying the minimum required vehicle insurance is to buy liability insurance, purchase their vehicle tag and then cancel the insurance. The non-valid card still in their possession is then used as proof of insurance if they happened to be questioned.

The new program compares the data received from insurance companies and matches it against the state's tag and title database.

Tift County Tax Commissioner Gene Goode said that insurance companies electronically transmit vehicle insurance information to the GEICS. If upon inquiry, the GEICS states in error that a tag applicant is uninsured, he nor his staff have the authority to correct the database.

People will not be able to renew or transfer their vehicle registration in Georgia unless their insurance company has provided proof of insurance electronically to the state database.

Cindy Sutton, deputy Tift County Tax Commissioner, said the DMVS mailed letters to citizens who were not listed as insured and to those who needed to correct tag, title or insurance information.

"The insurance company is the only one who can get it straight," said Sutton. "We can't override the system in any way."

Beginning Feb. 1, tag customers should bring their valid driver's licenses, tag numbers or a copy of the binder in the case of a new vehicle purchase. In the case of commercial vehicle insurance policies, businesses and the self-insured, the person applying should continue to bring insurance cards as proof.

If there is one digit difference between the VIN number and the insurance verification number in the GEICS, the inquiry results will show the tag applicant is not properly insured.

"We just ask people to look at their VIN and insurance identification numbers and compare them to the insurance policies and tag receipts before they come in," said Sutton. "If there is a discrepancy, contact us and we will help you get it fixed."

Cpl. Don Whitaker of Tifton's Georgia State Patrol Post said valid policyholders shouldn't be concerned with the new system. He does have concern that initially, the new system will complicate processing of accident reports.

If a person is indeed covered by insurance, but the system states otherwise, the official working the accident won't have the information needed to process a report.

That report, Whitaker said, is required by insurance companies before claims are processed.

"No insurance company is going to do anything until they get copies of the reports," said Whitaker. "It is going to be a common problem for all law enforcement if the computer systems is down and the motorist doesn't have the insurance card.

"It will make it easier on them and us if they keep that card on them, even though the law doesn't require it."

According to DMVS, the rental agreement will be proof of automobile insurance under the new law. The agency also said drivers of recently purchased vehicles should have the bill of sale dated no more than 20 day





s previous to being stopped by law enforcement and a declaration page from the auto insurance police of the vehicle owned previous to the purchase of the new vehicle in the vehicle at all times.



To contact reporter Angie Thompson, call 382-4321, ext. 208.

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