‘Problem driver’ database flawed; 600,000 errors estimated
A federal database of more than 40 million “problem drivers” contains hundreds of thousands of phony Social Security numbers, a new report says.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General estimates there are more than 600,000 invalid Social Security numbers — such as 111-22-3333 and 222-33-4444 — in the National Driver Registry. The database also contains about 161,000 duplicate numbers in which different drivers are using the same Social Security information.
The federal government pays $4 million a year for the National Driver Registry, which enables states to share information to prevent “license shopping,” where drivers with revoked or suspended licenses try to get licenses in other states.
Last year, the database was used more than 70 million times to check driver’s license applications, including 9 million instances that found so-called problem drivers with licenses that were denied, canceled, revoked or suspended.
But millions of other problem drivers still could have become licensed undetected, according to the report by Transportation Department Inspector General Calvin L. Scovel III. The report was issued last week to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and obtained by The Washington Times on Nov. 1.
The report found that records for millions of problem drivers “were not recorded until at least one year after conviction — and [contained] incomplete or inaccurate information on Social Security numbers and drivers’ physical attributes such as height, weight and eye color.”
The lack of timely reporting by states could allow drivers convicted of drunken driving and other offenses to get licenses in other states, the report found.
In addition, the report estimated there are 161,000 records in the national registry in which the same Social Security number is used by more than one driver in the same state.
“Until corrected, these invalid and duplicate Social Security numbers could result in confusion and impede states’ ability to identify problem drivers,” the report concluded.
Federal law does not require states to verify Social Security numbers before issuing a driver’s license, but the Real ID Act of 2005 requires verification by December 2009, according to the report.
Millions of records in the national registry do not contain Social Security numbers, the inspector general found.
States are responsible for reporting information to the database.
The highway safety administration, which administers the national registry, declined to comment on Nov. 1. But administration officials referred The Times to a written statement by the agency’s administrator, Nicole R. Nason. Her response was contained in the report.
In written comments, Miss Nason said states should be rooting out duplicate Social Security numbers from their licensing databases.
She also agreed with the inspector general’s recommendation that driving convictions should be entered into the registry within a month.
In addition, Miss Nason said the registry will contact state motor vehicle offices across the country to “reemphasize the need to comply with the 31-day reporting requirement for revoked and suspended driver’s licenses.”
Miss Nason added that federal transportation officials “limited practical ability” to force states to report identifying information, such as height, weight and eye color, in the registry. Refusing to accept records in the database because they don’t have that information could lead to other problems, she warned.
“This in turn may result in a revoked or suspended driver being able to obtain a driver’s license in another jurisdiction,” Miss Nason said.