Tag plan has some doubters

November 06, 1997


Staff Writer

Halfway resident Ned Renner says he had to contact state Sen. Don Munson, R-Washington, to straighten out a dispute with the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration over his insurance status.

Linda Hessong, of Smithsburg, says she's still trying to iron out a misunderstanding that dates back to March.

Their stories highlight concerns over a plan announced by state officials last week to hire private firms to remove license plates from the vehicles of uninsured motorists.

The Motor Vehicle Administration contends the plan will make Maryland's roads safer by keeping uninsured and dangerous drivers off the road. But Renner, 68, who worked at the MVA from 1970 to 1991, said his experience makes him wonder whether innocent drivers will mistakenly be targeted.


While employed by the agency, Renner said he performed the same tasks that two private firms began doing two weeks ago.

"Working there 21 years, I know how messed up things can get," he said.

"I found in many cases people were insured and there were no lapses. They just didn't keep up with the paperwork," he said.

That's what happened when he switched insurance companies last year, Renner said. In Maryland, insurance companies are required to notify the state when a policy is canceled for any reason.

Renner said the MVA sent him a notice asking for new information. He said he took it to the MVA office, but received another notice several weeks later.

He again delivered the information, but a few weeks later, he received a summons to appear at the office.

"At that point, they'd be taking my license plates and I'm sure they'll do it in the middle of the night," he said.

MVA officials said the pilot program covers only motorists who have responded to notices and agreed to pay back fines but have not done so, spokesman Jim Lang said.

For now, Lang said uninsured motorists who never respond will not be targeted. He said the state will reassess the program after the pilot program ends.

"That's not to say the (program) can't expand into other areas," he said.

That possibility worries Hessong, who said her problems began when her insurance company mistakenly canceled policies for her family's remaining two vehicles after she sold two other cars.

"At least two times, we've had to produce FR 19 forms to prove we had insurance," she said.

When she read a newspaper article about the state's plan, she said she was incensed.

"I thought, `That's it. They're not going to come take our tags,'" she said.

Hagerstown resident Herman Swope, another retired MVA investigator, said he believes in the concept of collecting tags from uninsured drivers, who cause a great deal of trouble when they are involved in accidents.

But, he said, "I just don't know why they'd want to contract this out."

State officials said it is more cost-efficient to hire private firms.

Officials said private agents are required to attempt to make contact with the car owners before they remove the tags. Lang also said agents from the companies - Cotton & Krohling Special Services in Baltimore County and Bill Kolman in Howard County - have completed a state training course.

The Herald-Mail Articles