TULSA - A suspended license means you're not supposed to drive. But a 2NEWS investigation found hundreds of driver's license suspensions never recorded, meaning they were never put in the system.
Thousands of drivers in Oklahoma get pulled over. Sometimes the court will end up suspending a driver's license. There are 150 ways that can happen, but the state's department of public safety admits, in just the past six months, hundreds of those suspensions never got put into its system.
"It's concerning," said Claremore Police Officer Dusty Singer.
The 2NEWS Investigators dug through open records and obtained an email from the municipal courts in Claremore. The clerk wrote, "... just came across another suspension that was not process(ed)"
It went on to say, "... very concerned, you can't really know how many transactions have never been processed without checking every one."
Singer says just a small traffic stop, could end up being something much more.
"Just a simple traffic stop with somebody that has a suspended license, leads into different crimes. Anywhere from possession of a narcotic to just a ton of different things," said Singer.
We took what we uncovered to Oklahoma Rep. Fred Jordan, R-Jenks.
"Whenever you contacted me and mentioned the problem, I immediately started calling around. There's certainly a problem out there," said Jordan.
The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety is in charge of making sure the suspensions get in the statewide computer system.
"That particular system has been around here since 1973, here at the Department of Public Safety, " said Ricky Adams, assistant commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety.
A computer system that's been around since the Nixon administration.
"It's a systemic patchwork of programs, and it's spaghetti that keeps all the various functions running," said Adams.
Just to give you an idea how old the system is, the courts across Oklahoma will electronically send in a suspension. The suspensions the courts send will print out on a printer at DPS in Oklahoma City. Then staff will put the printed stack of suspensions into a cart and wheel it over to another area at DPS where employees will hand-enter the suspension.
When we asked Adams if DPS has missed any suspensions, he said, "I'm sure that we have."
After our interview the assistant commissioner says he did more research and now estimates potentially hundreds of missed suspensions over the past six months.
"When you're dealing with 4.4 million records there's going to be an error some place, but a lot less if we have it automated," said Adams.
The idea is to give the system a huge overhaul.
"Our vision is to have a system that is a 21st century design that will give the citizens of Oklahoma a customer service, self-help platform," he said.
Sending a suspension would be like sending an email. It would save time and money. The down side, it doesn't come cheap.
Adams doesn't have an exact figure but a similar overhaul in Texas cost $65 million. Oklahoma's plan probably won't be as elaborate, but still he says it will be expensive.
"If that is the case it may take a while to pay that off. I know that they're wanting to do this as quickly as possible to try and get the public the help and assistance that they need," said Jordan.
There is some new potential revenue to help fund the plan.
On Monday, Governor Mary Fallin signed into law a bill that will increase the fee of $10 for each driver's license renewal. However, the revenue generated from the new law isn't just going to that overhaul. It will also be used to hire more than 20 new people to give driving tests and to pay for upgrades to Oklahoma Highway Patrol's radio system.
"It's going to provide a little over $8 million a year," said Adams.
It's certainly a start. Jordan is committed to funding it too.
For Singer, he's eager for a change, because without it it's a public safety concern.
"We have this process in place and in order to keep up, they need to upgrade their system," said Singer.
A system that's been around for 40 years and that has long since been outdated.
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