RENO -- A Department of Motor Vehicles computer change has prompted the issuance of notices to thousands of motorists threatening them with the loss of their registrations unless they show proof of insurance.
A computer program upgrade forced the DMV to verify the insurance of motorists whose information might not have been previously recorded.
The notices have been sent to many motorists who have never let their insurance lapse and were upset that the state had no record of their long-standing policies.
Some motorists and insurance agents criticized the DMV, saying the agency caused problems when it suddenly changed rules for verification without notice.
Among the critics is Earl Douglas of Reno, who in November received notices that the agency has no record of insurance on a car he has owned and insured for 13 years.
"I'm pretty angry about what the DMV has done," Douglas told a Reno newspaper. "There was a threat of a $250 fine if I had no insurance, but I've never let it lapse.
"When I went to the DMV office, all they had on me was a blank computer screen. What the hell is going on?" he asked.
The cards demand that motorists alert their insurance companies to notify DMV that they are insured.
Randy Rasley, a Farmers Insurance agent in Reno, said his company's regional office still is receiving 600 verifications notices per day.
"Traditionally, the DMV has only cared about verifying customers who allowed their insurance to lapse," Rasley said. "Now they are apparently trying to verify that everyone in their registration database has insurance.
"That's all well and good. But don't just dump this on the customers and the companies without warning," he said.
DMV officials said the agency's computer system is just trying to catch up with a 3-year-old deficiency. The DMV check has brought in $4.5 million in additional revenue from reinstatement fines, they added.
"It's always been our goal to create a complete and accurate database. We're able to do that now," said DMV spokesman Tom Jacobs.
"We understand the frustration of motorists who've been asked to verify a policy that's been in place for years, but if they mail in the card there shouldn't be a problem as long as their insurance underwriter verifies the policy."
The problem began when insurance information on Nevada drivers was transferred from an old computer system in 1999, and thousands of names didn't get into the new Genesis system.
Last year, new programs enabled DMV officials to determine missing names.