The City of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, has launched a new initiative to tackle one of the state’s most chronic problems – uninsured motorists.
Since 2001, Mississippi law has required all automobile owners to have liability insurance. Currently, 29.4% of Mississippi drivers are uninsured – which means this state has the highest percentage of uninsured drivers in the United States. Ocean Springs officials say, not only is this a lingering public safety issue, but also insured motorists who follow the law pay an extra uninsured motorist coverage fee as part of their cost to have insurance. This fee is based on the extremely high percentage of uninsured motorists in Mississippi.
State law provides stiff penalties for driving while uninsured. This can include hefty fines and a suspension of a driver’s license until proof of insurance is provided. Officials say the new Ocean Springs initiative brings an innovative, respectful solution to ensuring drivers are compliant with insurance laws by providing a diversion program that allows an offender to take an online course, pay a reduced fine, avoid suspension of their driver’s license, and keep the citation off their driving record.
The Ocean Springs Police Department says the initiative utilizes state-of-the-art technology with Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) cameras located in several areas in Ocean Springs. Using these ALPR cameras and the state vehicle insurance database, the Police Department can distinguish between which vehicles have auto insurance and which are uninsured.
If it is determined by the Police Department that a vehicle is uninsured, the owner of that vehicle will receive a citation in the mail from the Ocean Springs Police Department. If you receive one of these citations, these are your three options:
- PROVIDE PROOF OF INSURANCE AT TIME OF INFRACTION.
If your vehicle was properly insured on the referenced date and time and you believe you are receiving this notice in error, there is a quick and easy way to provide proof of insurance at www.courtstatus.com. We will correct the record. If you have any questions, call the Community Safety Help Desk at 800-853-7267. -OR-
- ACCEPT DIVERSION AND PAY PROGRAM FEE INSTEAD OF COURT FINES AND FEES
You may accept diversion and pay the $300.00 fee by the due date on the citation. This can keep this violation off your record and prevent you from owing far more and dealing with serious penalties. Go to courtstatus.com, agree not to reoffend, take a short online course, and pay the fee. Credit and debit cards and also e-checks accepted. If you have questions, call the Community Safety Help Desk at 800-853-7267. -OR-
- CONTEST THIS CHARGE AND APPEAR IN COURT
You have the right to appear before a Judge to contest this charge. Before contesting it, please first review the information to determine if you have a valid defense. If you appear, you are rejecting your opportunity for diversion and its benefits. Valid defenses may include: vehicle or license plate reported stolen, or vehicle was sold and ownership transferred prior to the date/time of infraction. If you choose this option, then you are summoned to appear in person at Ocean Springs Municipal Court, 3810 Bienville Blvd., Ocean Springs, MS 39564 at the listed date and time on your citation. If you have questions, call the Community Safety Help Desk at 800-853-7267.
The program is funded entirely from insurance citation and diversion program fees.
The website www.courtstatus.com provides information about this program, the online court diversion option, and fine payment (for this program only), as well as program contact information.
Ocean Springs Police Chief Mark Dunston stated, “I’m pleased that the City of Ocean Springs continues its commitment to providing a safe place to live, work, and raise a family. Our new effort to tackle the issue of uninsured motorists is a big step to increase public safety and make sure our laws are being enforced. Our officers routinely respond to auto accidents that involve an uninsured driver and the problem is getting worse, not better. That’s why we are taking action now, and at the same time providing an innovative solution by allowing a diversion program to greatly reduce the penalty to an offender because the ultimate goal here is to make sure vehicles have insurance, not to issue citations.”
The City of Ocean Springs continues to focus on providing a good quality of life for all residents. Safer streets and law-abiding drivers provide a safer community for everyone. This new initiative to address the uninsured motorist issue is a modern, less punitive approach to solving a prolonged problem across Mississippi—but with the end result of ensuring the law is enforced for all motorists.
The previous information was released by the Ocean Springs Police Department