FLORIDA - Computer Mixup Causes Auto Tag Problems

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Title: Computer mixup causes auto tag problems

NewsJournal Online, Staff and wire report

March 23, 2000

Hundreds of thousands of Florida motorists who lease their vehicles or who moved last year may not have received their tag renewal notices because of computer errors, state officials said Wednesday.

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles does not know exactly how many people were affected by the computer problems, but said it could be as many as 1.1 million. Department spokeswoman Janet Dennis said it appears less than 9 percent of the state's 13 million registered vehicles were affected by the computer glitch.

Volusia County officials have not received any complaints relating to the glitch, said Chief Revenue Director Barney Kane, who oversees the county's auto license tag and title offices.

He said he only heard of it through media reports, and concluded that "since we weren't aware of the problem, it hasn't had a noticeable affect."

Kane said as he understands it the number of people affected decreases with each month that passes, so he does not expect any rush of complaints after the problem is publicized.

But officials will be diligent in watching for it.

"Now that we're aware of it, it's something we'll keep an eye out for," Kane said.

A few complaints have surfaced in Flagler County, said Tax Collector Suzette Pellicer.

"This has been going on for at least three months," Pellicer said. "It has caused a problem to the people out there who have received tickets," she said.

Pellicer said the Florida Highway Patrol has asked local law enforcement agencies to be more lenient than usual about expired tags. Still, she said, that doesn't mean motorists cannot be ticketed.

"(Motorists) need to understand it's just a courtesy notice. We're not required to send it," Pellicer said of the mailed reminders.

Those who changed their addresses from October to December 1999 are likely to be affected, state officials said.

Dennis said the problem was caused when employees entered data in the wrong field, and then a computer change duplicated the mistake.

"It was human error made worse by a computer," she said.

Department officials advised motorists to check their auto registrations to see if they have expired. Most registrations are due on drivers' birthdays, but leased vehicles can have a different renewal date. Officials are considering waiving fines for people caught up in the problem, even though the month-of-expiration stickers the state requires on current tags are always a good reminder.

Officials expect the problem will prevent 85,000 renewal notices from going out on leased vehicles across Florida next month. Those whose registration belongs to the leasing company are most likely not to receive a renewal notice.

"If you lease a vehicle and the registration is actually in your name, then you probably will not be affected," said Carl Ford, the assistant director of the state Division of Motor Vehicles. ) 2000 News-Journal Corp. . news-journalonline.com http://www.n-jcenter.com/2000/Mar/23/AREAB.htm


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