‘Prob­lem driver’ data­base flawed; 600,000 er­rors es­ti­mated

The Washington Times Weekly - - From Page One - By Jim McElhatton

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.

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