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DMV sends out letters to apologize for error by computer programmers

Published: July 30, 2000



About 7,000 North Carolina drivers were startled last month when they received a form letter from the Division of Motor Vehicles warning that their liability insurance had lapsed. Now, DMV is apologizing.

A computer shipped out the erroneous letters after Department of Transportation programmers tinkered with DMV software, said John Parks, a division spokesman.

The letters went out in late June, and almost immediately the DMV knew it had a problem.

''When we started getting a higher volume of calls, that was an indication that something was wrong,'' Parks said.

But insurance agents said that it's common for customers to get DMV warnings about lapses in liability insurance when there has been no lapse. Cary agent Joy Pike said she gets five or six calls a week from worried customers.

A driver who fails to show the DMV that a policy is in effect can be fined $50 and have a car's license tags suspended for 30 days.

''It's a problem, and I don't understand why,'' Pike said. ''My customers get all upset, but I see them all the time.''

Parks said that the confusion arises when a customer drops auto coverage with one company to buy from another. The insurer with the dropped policy notifies the DMV of the termination. But the new carrier doesn't always report its new customer to the DMV.

''Sometimes they send us a letter, and sometimes they don't,'' Parks said. ''We try to work with the customers to fix the problem.''

The letters were sent after the DOT programmers worked on the DMV's liability-insurance database, particularly the software that sends out the lapse-in-coverage letters.

''I can't say specifically what happened,'' Parks said, ''but they came in to do points A, B, C and D, and they also did E, F and G inadvertently. As a result, some people were being recorded as having dropped their insurance.''

The letters of apology, dated July 15, explain: ''Due to a computer error, the notice of termination was inadvertently entered in your name. Your file is now clear, and no further action is required on your behalf.''

-- (, July 30, 2000

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