Cost of getting driving records about to go up

Monday, April 14, 2008

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A new law that will mean a big increase in the cost of obtaining Missouri driving records has raised concerns among the media.

The Missouri Department of Revenue on May 1 will begin charging $7 per driving record. The cost of buying the database of all records will cost more than $28 million. Before, the cost of buying the whole database was about $2,000, according to The Kansas City Star.

"It would be quite expensive, yes," said David Griffith, spokesman for the department. There are about 4.2 million driving records, he said.

The state confirmed the higher costs in a recent conference call with representatives of industries that typically want driving records, such as the media, insurance providers and firms that do background checks for employers.

State officials focused on the per-record charge of $7, citing a need to recover the cost of producing the records just as other states do.

Missouri's current per-record charge for a small batch is on a "sliding scale," depending on the type of buyer, and starts at $1.25, Griffith said.

Missouri will offer more timely and efficient electronic records under its new system, replacing one that is slow and antiquated, Griffith said. Driving records are not accessible to the general public, but certain entities with a perceived valid reason for wanting the information can get it. They receive special clearance from the state.

Under the new system, individuals will be able to get their own records for $7 apiece.

News outlets still will not be charged when reporters call for up to five driving records, but they would be charged $7 apiece for more than five and more than $28 million for the full database, Griffith said.

Steve Shirk, managing editor of The Star, said newspapers use the records in various ways, such as to keep the public informed about the state's drivers and safety issues on Missouri highways.

"This outrageous amount will prohibit people from obtaining the records," Shirk wrote in a letter Friday to Julie Allen, director of customer services for the Department of Revenue.

Shirk and Jean Maneke, attorney for the Missouri Press Association, said the state is violating the Sunshine Law by seeking more for the records than it costs to produce them. They want the department to discuss the issue with concerned parties soon.

Griffith said another conference call was planned for Tuesday or Wednesday.

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