Montana Counties to Begin Verifying Vehicle Insurance

By Beacon Staff

BILLINGS – County treasurers will soon begin using a new computer system to verify whether people have liability insurance on a vehicle when they license it or renew its registration.

Yellowstone County has been testing the Montana Insurance Verification System and Treasurer Max Lenington says it works surprisingly well.

Counties will start using the system in January, but Motor Vehicle Division administrator Brenda Nordlund says no one will be denied registration or renewal until some issues are fixed. The issues include how to handle mail-in and online renewals, commercially insured vehicles and insurance for people who move to Montana with policies that originated out of state.

The verification system is intended to help reduce the number of uninsured drivers in the state.

The state is trying to “eliminate the possibility that people are going to pretend they have insurance when they don’t,” Nordlund said.

The Montana Highway Patrol began using the system in May, followed by other law enforcement agencies in August.

An insurance card based on a cancelled policy “is not going to work anymore,” during a traffic stop because officers can run a verification check, Nordlund said.

Under the system, insurance companies electronically provide information on insured drivers to the Motor Vehicle Division. Law enforcement officers and county treasurers can check the system to verify coverage, which is required by law.

The 2009 Legislature passed the law creating the verification system and the 2011 Legislature delayed its start for county treasurers until 2013. The system costs about $540,000 a year to operate and is funded by a $1.80 per vehicle annual increase in license plate fees.

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