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Motorist rides out MVA mess

June 05, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

by Joe Crocetta / staff photographer

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MVA mess

CEARFOSS - It's a nightmare that sounds more like a joke than real life.

George R. Moore Jr. received a letter from the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration shortly after his 72nd birthday in January asking for proof he had auto insurance.

A few weeks after he sent the MVA a form from his insurance company, the Cearfoss farmer received a second notice telling him his paperwork did not provide insurance information far enough back.

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So Moore filled out another form and mailed it to the agency's insurance compliance office in Glen Burnie, Md.

When a third notice arrived in April warning him the MVA had not received information about his 1980 Lincoln Town Car or his 1991 Dodge pickup truck, Moore got serious.

He obtained a third insurance form and sent it by certified mail to the Glen Burnie office. He said he knows it got there, because he has a receipt signed by an employee in the office.

That did not stop a suspension notice from arriving on Monday. The letter informed Moore that his registration for his Town Car had been suspended and listed the consequences: He had to mail the license plates to the MVA and would have to pay an uninsured penalty fee of $150 to reinstate registration.

"You always think, possibly the paperwork got lost in the mail. I wasn't too disturbed. I thought it was a little funny," said Moore of his initial reaction.

Moore was not laughing when he got the suspension notice. Living in the country, he needs a car, he said.

Moore said an employee at the Hagerstown MVA office gave him a form reinstating his registration on Wednesday. But he said he expects to receive another notice for his pickup truck.

"They just give you the runaround," Moore said.

Calvin M. Mahaney, president of Brethren Mutual Insurance Co., said he got nothing but busy signals when he tried to clear up the misunderstanding on Wednesday.

"His situation, I have to admit, is frustrating - for him and us," he said. "I literally spent time throughout the morning trying to get through to Glen Burnie. It was constantly busy. I never did get through."

Although customers complain about the MVA from time to time, Mahaney said he has never come across a more extreme case of bureaucracy at its worst.

"It's hard to imagine that three times your paperwork gets lost in the shuffle," he said.

Jim Lang, a spokesman for the MVA, said the administration conducts random checks of about 10 percent of the state's drivers each year to make sure their insurance is current.

Lang said it is a large job that is getting larger as more vehicles hit the road. Sometimes, mistakes occur, he said.

"We'll get random complaints and frustrations from customers even in media relations," he said. "There are an awful lot of people who call about insurance concerns."

Lang said it is sometimes difficult to get through to the MVA because of the volume of calls.

Mahaney expressed sympathy for the MVA's task and said the system works fine most of the time. But he said his experience on Wednesday left him aggravated.

"At some time, you ought to be able to get a phone call through," he said.

Robert Dodson, director of the MVA's Insurance Compliance Division, said the agency has taken steps to improve efficiency. Callers who have trouble reaching employees can call 410-424-3100 and leave a message on a voice mail system.

In mid-July, the agency will launch an automated system that will allow car owners to submit their insurance information at local MVA offices, Dodson said. Such decentralization will cut down on the paper flood in Glen Burnie, he said.

Moore said he was happy to hear of the impending changes, but the frustration lingers: "They're an agency gone wrong."

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