Police and SGI cracking down on suspended drivers, unregistered vehicles

Saskatchewan Government Insurance has partnered with police to crack down on suspended drivers and people driving unregistered vehicles in November. They're relying on automated licence plate readers to catch more people.

Officers are relying on automated licence plate scanners to nab more people

Automated licence plate readers can scan a plate, take a picture of it and provide the plate and vehicle information to police officers in their cars. Police in Saskatchewan will be cracking down on unlicensed drivers and unregistered vehicles in November. (Mike Zartler/CBC)

Police in Saskatchewan are relying on automated licence plate readers to help them catch more people who are driving without a licence or are behind the wheel of an unregistered vehicle.

Saskatchewan Government Insurance says police will target suspended drivers and unregistered vehicles for the month of November.

"People don't get suspended without cause," said Earl Cameron, executive vice-president of the Auto Fund — the province's insurance program — in an press release.

"They may have their driving privileges revoked due to impaired driving or other dangerous driving behaviours." 

People who get into accidents without insurance can take a financial toll on the province, said police.

"Obviously if I don't have insurance and I [hit] somebody and it's going to cost SGI to hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay everything out, that money's got to come from somewhere," said Const. Curtis Warnar, who is with the Regina Police Service traffic safety unit.

SGI spokesman Tyler McMurchy also pointed to the money involved in an uninsured crash. 

"You could be potentially on the hook for thousands of dollars in costs resulting from that collision," he said.

McMurchy said driving while uninsured is a bigger issue than most people would think. More than 50,000 drivers are suspended in Saskatchewan at any given time. In 2016, more than 1,800 people were convicted for driving while disqualified. 

That's where the automated plate readers come in.

Police are focusing on nabbing drivers who don't have a licence or are operating an unregistered vehicle this month. Police will use automated licence plate readers, like the one seen here atop a Regina police car, to help scan plates more quickly. (Mike Zartler/CBC)

SGI has provided funding to equip dozens of police cars throughout the province with the devices in recent years, the Crown corporation said.

The readers have the capacity to scan one plate per second, according to SGI. Over a 12-hour patrol shift, they might scan up to 6,000 vehicles, Warnar said. He said that can result in 100 to 200 checks on plates in police or SGI databases.

The devices scan the licence plate, take a picture of it and provide the plate and vehicle information to the officers in the car.

Then officers decide whether to run the plates through a database — something they now have access to in the car.

Warnar said the automated plate readers don't retain the collected information. 

"There's no right to privacy that we're infringing upon," he said. "It's the same as if everybody drives by and looks at your license plate." 

A licence plate reader on a Regina police car. In November, police in Saskatchewan are putting extra attention on nabbing drivers who don't have a licence or are operating an unregistered vehicle. (Mike Zartler/CBC)

The database is set up to look for criminally prohibited drivers and expired licence plates, but officers also have the power to add plates into the system. For example, they could add a plate number relevant to an Amber Alert case or a stolen vehicle incident.

Two police cars in Regina have the automated readers, and the service is getting a third in the fall. 

People can expect to see more plate readers throughout Saskatchewan in the near future, McMurchy said. 

Currently, there are 59 in the province that have been funded by SGI and others that have been paid for by police departments.