Q&A - Will Automated Licence Plate Recognition Identify the Principal Driver?

Q&A ImageQUESTION: I lost my license so I added a new principal driver to my insurance. He has a valid license and he will be driving my car for the time I'm suspended. Will my licence plate still be flagged if they are scanned by automated license plate recognition (ALPR)? I don't want us getting pulled over all the time while driving my daughter back and forth from school.

ANSWER: Information for the database file for the ALPR system in B.C. is provided to the RCMP by ICBC. The RCMP shares the file with municipal police forces.

ICBC advises that the registered owner of the vehicle being unlicensed, prohibited or suspended will result in their licence plate being flagged for investigation. The same applies with a principal driver if one is identified.

Changes to insurance in 2021 require that drivers who regularly drive your vehicle be listed with ICBC. These drivers will also cause your licence plate to be flagged if they become unlicensed, prohibited or suspended.

As it happens, old friends who recently moved from the lower mainland to a new location in the BC interior drove there in their adult son's car. Their son's license is under suspension, as a result of impaired driving.

On the way, they were arbitrarily pulled over by the RCMP, as a result of what I consider to be misuse of the ALPR system. They weren't speeding, or doing anything else wrong. There was no reason for them to be pulled over. Their son hasn't driven since his suspension occurred.

I can well understand how this technology could be helpful, particularly for something like nabbing stolen cars or vehicles with stolen license plates. Great way to zap those bad guys.

But we need to keep in mind that in our democracy, you're supposed to be presumed innocent unless proven guilty. Not the other way around. If a cop pulled me over, he better have a reason for it. Not a suspicion, triggered by a beep from his computer.

After observing the way that red light camera technology has been abused by the government already, this seems like another step in the wrong direction, due to misuse of the application.

The reason to pull them over is because the owner of the vehicle was prohibited from driving. The only way to stop some prohibited drivers is by putting them in a cage and they are often difficult to catch unless you are willing to camp at the end of their driveway and wait. ALPR is a big help with this.

Like it or not, the courts have decided that this is reasonable, as they have with demanding a breath sample from any driver at any time just because they are driving.

The inconvenience is negligible.

Please elaborate on your allegation of abuse concerning red light camera technology by government. This article would likely be a good place to do that.

Hold it a moment, here.

The first thing to understand is that there is absolutely zero requirement in BC for a vehicle owner/insurer to actually hold a driver's license. They are two separate things.

The next thing to understand is that rationally, any driver whose license is suspended will cancel the insurance on their car (except for storage coverage), if it isn't going to be driven by properly licensed drivers. An RCMP plate check will quickly reveal whether the insurance is valid. And inasmuch as the vehicle owner has maintained their insurance then presumably it's so that other drivers can safely and legally operate their vehicle. Might be a girlfriend/boyfriend or parental unit.

I'll leave the red light issue for a different thread. But this is a misuse of technology, and a misunderstanding of what's at stake here.

Imagine going to Walmart or the Liquor Store tomorrow, and as you leave there's some 'security guard' at the exit, wanting to look in your bag. Intolerable. But it's a slippery slope, if we don't understand and embrace our fundamental freedoms.

In reply to by CompetentDrivingBC

The next thing to understand is that rationally, any driver whose license is suspended will cancel the insurance on their car (except for storage coverage), if it isn't going to be driven by properly licensed drivers.

Oh, the stories I could tell. You may be the only rational person out there but I'd be willing to bet that it doesn't happen except when the person is honest. Some even hire someone at minimum wage to drive so that they can keep their jobs or run their businesses.

The rest just keep on driving and there are a lot of them out there. I used to run road checks and do nothing but ask the driver to produce their licence. ALPR might be better than that. No one gets stopped save for the most likely to check and everyone else gets to carry on with their day.

Uh oh, if that's the case then you're all doomed ha ha!

But in all seriousness, there has to be a difference between being detained, however briefly, to prove your innocence, and a system that works the other way around. Nobody should be presumed guilty (that's for the courts, not the cops) until they can prove themselves innocent, to a police officer.

I have no difficulty believing that a substantial number of drivers who share the roads with us don't actually hold a valid driver license. I strongly suspect there are more each day. There just aren't any statistics on this, and never will be, unless a given number of drivers are arbitrarily detained at a certain location, over a certain time frame, with the police wanting to check their papers, a type of system which I'm strongly opposed to. So I guess we'll never know.

As an officer that had the ALPR system installed in my car I can say the system works. A surprising number of unlicensed drivers seem to drive the vehicle registered to an unlicensed driver. Keep in mind that the law permits (upheld by the courts) an officer to stop a vehicle solely for the purpose of checking the vehicle insurance status and/or the driver's license status. With that in mind, the ALPR provides somewhat more specific reason to carry out that check. Theoretically, the officer should not be checking the ALPR alert on the police vehicle computer because that should not be done while driving (legal for an officer to do, but discouraged by the department).

That being said, there are some issues. BC vehicles with owners that have Alberta driver's license, for one (common and proper if the person works in Alberta but li es in BC on off periods).

The article stated that alerts should only occur if the the owner or principal operator is unlicensed. That simply is not correct. I have seen many alerts on vehicles where both the owner and the principal operator were licensed. Somehow these alerts seen to still produced a large number of unlicensed drivers. However, when ICBC changed to require that all potential drivers for a vehicle be registered, the number of alerts that did not produce an unlicensed driver went way up. Presumably because this newly added cohort of unlicenced drivers tended to have a high compliance rate, unlike the previous databases cohorts. It was actually such an annoyance that I tended to ignore the unlicensed driver alerts after the changes and only stopped the insurance and prohibited driver alerts.

So,,, a store is the subject of an armed robbery.  The shop owner provides the police with a description of the suspect.  You are spotted a short distance from the store.  You are wearing the same basic type and color or clothing and match the physical description of the suspect.  The police stop you and speak with you, ask your personal details and the reason you are in the area.

You explain you own a store next to the victim store and you are just heading home from work.  They quickly check your details while you are with them on the street, thank you for your cooperation and you are off.  The police are now free to resume looking for the suspect in a timely manner.

Should we consider this encounter,,, the police "presuming you are guilty" ?  or are they just investigating a crime with your assistance ?

Or,,, you could rant and rave, claim you have rights, refuse to cooperate, cause the police to deal with you for a lengthy time instead of the few minutes it would take, with your cooperation.  and,,,, oh you in the second scenario you'd surely be saying the age old comment "why don't you stop and harass real criminals"  (and just how do they know who the "real criminals" are without speaking with people ?)

How would you suggest the police investigate this type of incident of driving while prohibited, without stopping and talking to motorists ?  Just stopping the suspended drivers.