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All-Electronic Vehicle Registration Meets Opposition in Indiana

Vehicle registration renewal stickers are not going away despite a proposal for electronic record keeping to fully take their place. State police opposed the switch saying the tags are useful for investigative purposes.

by Dan Carden, The Times / September 11, 2020
Shutterstock/Sean Pavone

(TNS) — A proposal for Indiana to eliminate license plate renewal stickers and physical vehicle registration cards in favor of all-electronic vehicle registration records was met with skepticism Thursday by a panel of state lawmakers.

After weighing the pros and cons, most members of the General Assembly's Interim Study Committee on Roads and Transportation appeared unconvinced Hoosier motorists and police officers would adapt to the change, notwithstanding the projected multimillion dollar annual cost savings.

Under the plan, originally proposed this year in House Bill 1347, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles no longer would issue a license plate renewal sticker and separate registration card after vehicle owners pay their annual registration fee and taxes.

Instead, the renewed registration simply would be noted in the BMV records that police officers already routinely check to verify a valid registration when making a traffic stop.

Indiana license plates then eventually would be redesigned to eliminate the stickers currently used to display the vehicle's registration expiration date and year.

According to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, scrapping the license plate sticker and registration card would reduce the BMV's paper, printing, mailing and workload expenses by $6.1 million a year when fully implemented.

Expired sticker triggers stop

However, Indiana State Police Sgt. Corey Berfield said police officers often use an expired license plate sticker as the basis for investigating traffic infractions or other crimes.

Eliminating the sticker might require police agencies to purchase expensive automated license plate readers to maintain the same ability to quickly spot a potential registration violation on the highways, he said.

According to the BMV, at least four states and one Canadian province have taken steps to replace license plate stickers and registration documents with electronic records.

Though the agency said if Indiana lawmakers move in that direction, they should allow at least a year or more for the BMV to raise awareness of the change with Hoosier motorists and explain how it will work.

State Rep. Holli Sullivan, R-Evansville, the study committee chairwoman, appeared to favor the change, along with switching to electronic vehicle titles, auto purchase documents, and electronic duplicates of physical driver's licenses.

Sullivan said if people can take out a mortgage and complete the paperwork to buy a house entirely online, they similarly should be able to quickly and efficiently purchase and register a vehicle without extra physical documentation.

The study committee is due to decide in October whether to recommend the 2021 General Assembly consider adopting the proposal.

©2020 The Times, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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