One Record, One Mission
Three AAMVA members share their thoughts on the importance and value of timely, accurate driver records and why that matters for driver safety
Owen McShane, deputy commissioner for investigations and law enforcement for New York State DMV
Part of a DMV’s responsibility is the reporting of data. Everyone thinks of the DMV as the agency that issues drivers licenses and license plates, but we also collect data on crashes, tickets, training experience, ability to operate a variety of vehicles and more. We receive a lot of data. Every ticket that’s issued is transmitted to the DMV. Every conviction from a court that impacts a person’s driving ability should be shared with the DMV and added to that record.
Over the years, the DMV becomes like your parents’ basement or attic. It’s where old information gets stored, and that information can be important when you’re assessing a driver. Because the DMV is responsible for storing and accessing that information, I think the timely submission of that data is crucial.
I have 32 years’ experience with the DMV. The biggest change I’ve seen comes from the electronic submission of these records. In the past, a traffic ticket was a traditional, multiform paper document that the officer would handwrite, copying some of it off a registration document or a driver’s license.
Now we’re seeing the electronic forms being used. The officer has the ability to scan a driver’s license or registration document, pull that data and transmit the ticket. There are no typos, misspellings or duplicate name issues, and no transcription errors from misreading the information when it’s sent in. This has helped eliminate a lot of errors and it’s really sped up the process.
In the past, a lot of police agencies gathered tickets and once a box was full, they would mail it to the DMV. Now, at the end of every day those electronic records get transmitted. We can see pending tickets. We can get immediately notified of an alcohol conviction or impaired driving conviction or fatal crash, allowing us to assess the situation and take action much more quickly.
For example, if we get notified that a teen driver is violating the hours when they can drive or has gotten a ticket that would result in the immediate suspension, that timely transmission allows our agency to take action to suspend that record and to revoke that license if necessary.
Chris Turner, judge, former Kansas highway patrol
I started with the Kansas Highway Patrol in 1998. When I took command in Kansas, you’d get a box full of hand-written records. You’d go through them by hand and enter them into the separate computer system. If a record was handwritten, there could be typos and misinformation. In the olden days, a violation could end up on the wrong record. My name is Chris Turner. There’s a whole lot of Chris Turners. You could get the wrong Chris Turner and end up with a record that shouldn’t be there. It is so much simpler now.
Quick access to records is also important to driver safety. A recent study showed that if you receive a citation or a violation for certain driving offenses, even failure to use your turn signal, that increases the likelihood by 48% that you’ll be involved in a crash. With reckless driving, it’s 114% increase. This is critically important and tied to safety because past behavior can be a predictor of future issues, as well as a warning to law enforcement.
A recent example of how critical it is to have records up to date was a crash in New Hampshire in which motorcyclists were killed. The driver had a DUI in his history but this information wasn’t transmitted from one state to the next. He shouldn’t have had a CDL. His employer would have known and could have removed him from behind the wheel. Had that transfer happened effectively it would have reduced the likelihood of the crash and we wouldn’t have seven motorcyclists, who were veterans, killed on the side of the road.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has stressed “one driver, one license, one record” for many valid reasons. We need to make sure we have quality drivers behind the wheel of commercial motor vehicles especially, but all vehicles to make sure we reduce those deaths. There are around 40,000 deaths a year. If anything else killed 40,000 people, we’d try to reduce that any way we could.
Colonel Matthew Langer, chief of the Minnesota State Patrol
I’ve been the colonel for about nine years, and have served in every rank within the organization for over 24 years. I am absolutely passionate about traffic safety.
When we think about traffic enforcement from the policing perspective, its purpose is definitely to change behavior. That’s the outcome we’re after. And a big part of changing behavior is understanding previous behavior. So accurate and timely driving records help everyone, from insurance companies to state regulatory agencies to the peace officer making that traffic stop to have an understanding of the previous driving behavior, because the ultimate goal is to change it for the better. And so those records are very helpful.
The more standardized we can make things, the better off we are in reducing the likelihood of human error. We all understand that those records need to be accurate. Certainly, none of us tolerate inaccuracies in our personal driving record. And the same would be true for the people that we serve.
We live in a digital world and information moves freely. One of the complicating factors to innovation revolves around data practices, working with disparate databases because each state has their own rules about how you can get your own driving record. The more that processes can be standardized across the country, the better. And we also live in a mobile society. People move frequently. And people in border cities are frequently driving in two states, often in the same day. So that movement of accurate information is really important.
How those factors collide should lead to conversations about how we can make these processes as standard and productive as possible, from a traffic safety perspective. It’s not to be punitive. Rather, the goal to make these decisions centered around a traffic safety philosophy of making the roads as safe as possible.