3/22/2017Virginia Scolds Insurance Institute For Illegal Speed Camera Use
Virginia state officials chide the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for setting up speed cameras on state roads without permission.
The state of Virginia is not happy that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) set up speed cameras on Virginia highways without any authority to do so. State officials sent a warning letter to the industry lobbying group in October.
"We recently received a concern claiming your organization set up equipment on property controlled by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)," Northern Virginia District Administrator Helen Cuervo wrote. "In reviewing our records, it does not appear that your organization had a legal permit to do so. Please be advised that VDOT's rules and regulations provide that no work or activities shall be performed on any real property under the ownership, control or jurisdiction of VDOT until written permission has been obtained from VDOT."
IIHS and its private contractor Brekford had set up ten cameras along a number of Northern Virginia roads to photograph 65,000 passing motorists. The lobbying group then accessed the state Department of Motor Vehicle records to look up personal details about the owners of the photographed vehicles. The effort was used to create an article last May about sporty cars that argued for the lowering of existing speed limits. IIHS member companies, which include all of the top automobile insurers, make money every time a speeding ticket is issued and insurance premiums rise.
Outraged by what it saw as a clear privacy violation, the National Motorists Association (NMA) insisted that VDOT investigate.
"Through freedom of information act requests, the NMA discovered the apparent unauthorized use of state land by IIHS and Brekford to record vehicle information from thousands of Northern Virginia drivers," NMA President Gary Biller told TheNewspaper. "That information, under the guise of research, helped IIHS gain access to the DMV records of those drivers."
In 2014, Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb authorized the release of otherwise confidential DMV records to IIHS after the industry group claimed it was just conducting research. The NMA has called for the research loophole to be closed.
The motoring rights group was disappointed that the state declined to fine IIHS, as is provided for under state law, but it is hopeful the insurance industry will think twice before doing so again.
"I hope Virginia agencies become as tolerant of actions of motorists -- who are subjected to regular speed trap campaigns -- as these agencies have shown to the violations of the law and motorists' privacy by IIHS and Brekford," Biller said.
A copy of the letter is available in a 30k PDF file at the source link below.