The process of changing all of Cayman’s registered vehicles’ license plates to electronic tags, which is expected to take up to three years, will begin next month when the Department of Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing introduces the new service.
The department announced Tuesday that the new plates and windscreen coupons would be distributed starting in February to replace more than 45,000 license plates and vehicle registration coupons. Both devices are tamper-proof, officials said.
“They cannot be removed for illegal use on other vehicles,” a statement issued on behalf of DVDL Director David Dixon noted.
The old vehicle plates will be swapped out in phases, Mr. Dixon’s statement indicated. The first batch of new electronic tags will be used to replace hundreds of temporary DVDL plates that have been issued since December.
The temporary plates were issued by the department to about 700 vehicles, either newly purchased or recently shipped to the islands, in anticipation of the new electronic registrations going live early this year.
“Once those are replaced, DVDL will move ahead in replacing all of the old registration plates and coupons free of charge,” the government statement indicated.
The replacement process will occur as currently registered vehicles come in for periodically required inspections. The department said there will be no additional cost for the electronic tags as long as the vehicle’s registration is current. The normal fees for registration, based on vehicle category, will still apply.
Most vehicles can be licensed for three, six or 12 months. However, newer vehicles can receive two- or three-year registrations and, therefore, some of those cars will not be able to replace their old registration plates right away, DVDL officials said.
Radio transmitters in plates
The electronic tags also add a new “enforcement component” to the vehicle registration system. The licenses are fitted with embedded radio transmitters which activate when they are driven over corresponding strips on the road. The transmitters will allow police to know the last general vicinity in which the vehicle was driven.
The system might also be modified in the future to monitor lower speed zones and even issue electronic speeding tickets, officials said.
The DVDL statement indicated that the licensing department would also be looking at enforcement capabilities once the new electronic tags are fitted to local vehicles. All operational vehicles should be fitted with the new plates within three years of the February launch, the department noted.
“Owners of vehicles with lapsed documents will be contacted by DVDL and advised to update their inactive registrations or licences,” Mr. Dixon’s statement read. “Back-licensing (for up to three years of arrears) will still have to be paid to maintain the vehicle registration.
“DVDL officials urge owners to take the initiative now to either update their expired licence/coupons, or turn in unused plates so they do not accumulate additional fees. This will involve the vehicle owner terminating or suspending the vehicle registration.”
Anyone who updates their license and registration after the three-year implementation period will be required to pay for the new plates, a new vehicle logbook and the windscreen coupon at a total cost of $115.
Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts first spoke about the electronic vehicle tag system in June 2016 in a Legislative Assembly Finance Committee meeting.
In addition to the enforcement improvements, the electronic plates can help monitor traffic patterns with an eye toward easing road congestion, Mr. Tibbetts said.
The DVDL will be able to create its own license plates for vehicles, along with the registration coupons.
Mr. Tibbetts indicated that “monitors” would be placed throughout the country when the electronic tagging system is up and running. The monitors allow every vehicle that crosses them to be tracked, he said.
A number of countries and territories worldwide, including Bermuda, South Africa and Mexico, have implemented electronic vehicle registraton in some form or another. Technology varies, but typically it involves mini-chips which emit UHF frequencies that are embedded in registration coupons and license plates.
The UHF chips communicate with devices installed along roadways and can communicate with hand-held readers – giving the users immediate information on who the vehicle is registered to, and whether the registration and car insurance are up to date.