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In The Boardroom With...

Mr. Neil Schuster
American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) 

Updated September 2011

Quite a bit has happened since we spoke a little more than a year ago. We’re closer than ever to a nationwide motor vehicle title system that protects consumers against fraud when buying a used car, and we remain as committed as ever to reducing highway deaths.

In fact, our efforts over the last year and at our recent annual international conference were built around the theme "Driving Toward Zero Deaths." Our Chair, Lynne Judd, who oversees Wisconsin’s DMV, made sure we played an active role in supporting our many safety partners in the U.S. and in Canada.

We’re working to help states make sure that unconventional vehicles coming on the market (three wheel vehicles, for example) meet appropriate national safety standards before they are registered and allowed on the road, and we’ve made progress in exploring solutions to the number of people who drive with suspended or revoked licenses.

We are doing our part to support a global Decade of Action program to improve road safety. While highway deaths have dropped in the past few years in the U.S., there are still more than a million road deaths worldwide. Here at home, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, made driver distraction one of his top priorities and we are pleased to support that effort as well. In Canada, motor vehicle administrators worked with federal officials to create and launch a 5-year road safety strategy to reduce road deaths and injuries. And AAMVA (both US and Canadian members) are collaborating with our colleagues in Mexico on joint activities that will help promote safety in North America. We’ve already started to reach out to our counterparts in Europe to set up similar information-sharing activities.

Budget constraints at the state level present a real challenge to motor vehicle and law enforcement officials, yet states have made great progress in implementing new driver’s license systems that feature the latest applications to prevent fraud. Most people would be surprised to learn how much technology goes into the driver’s license in their wallets, and how much thought and effort is put into processes and procedures to prevent fraudulent licenses and ID cards. One of our training programs helps DMV employees and state troopers quickly tell the difference between a valid and fake driver’s license, and we are continuing to update that program so it remains current.

An exciting development that holds great promise for road safety and travel efficiency lies in the number of driver assistance technologies that are becoming part of the driving experience. Lane departure warning systems and even self-park systems are already on the market and rear-view cameras which engage when a vehicle is in reverse are becoming commonplace. This past summer, Google unveiled its autonomous ground vehicle at our annual conference – a car that can drive itself without any human input. All this points to a very different driving environment than when I took my road test back in 1968. How we educate, train and test drivers will surely change as the vehicle environment changes in the coming years. Given how much change the future is likely to bring, it is appropriate that our incoming Board Chair (Mike Robertson, Commissioner of the North Carolina DMV) chose “Move to a Better Tomorrow” as our theme for the coming year.

If any of your readers has an interest in what AAMVA is doing, I welcome the opportunity to speak with you. All I ask is that you don’t call or text me while you are driving! Thank you for joining us today, Neil. Please give us an overview of your background and a brief background of the AAMVA and its mission.

Neil Schuster: My experience in associations in the transportation and safety arena will enable me to understand and support AAMVA members. The International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA) was formed about the same time as AAMVA and has a very similar governance structure and many of the same challenges that face the motor vehicle administration community. It is very clear that the AAMVA community takes its role in providing safe travel very seriously. It is personally rewarding to be part of a community that works tirelessly to serve the public interest and part of an organization whose members and staff are proud to make a difference. At AAMVA, we strive to support motor vehicle and law enforcement agencies advance public safety and security by lowering highway fatalities and injuries, reducing vehicle theft and fraud and improving identification security. Are there any particular achievements you'd like to talk about?

Neil Schuster: A hot topic in our community right now is Toward Zero Deaths (TZD): A National Strategy on Highway Safety. AAMVA has taken a leadership role as a steering committee member on this effort, which is using reliable data to identify and create opportunities to change America's highway safety culture. To reach its goals, the steering committee needs to identify and understand challenges and opportunities in reducing highway fatalities. Much work has been done to identify safety strategies and quantify their effectiveness, but additional research is needed to determine the impact of these strategies when fully implemented. The impact must include projections of lives saved as well as the health care costs of highway injuries and deaths, best practices, effective means of creating a cultural change, and other issues. In fact, a TZD summit of all stakeholders is being held in Washington, D.C. as we speak, with many key AAMVA representatives in attendance.
AAMVA touches so many other highway safety initiatives-we just helped release some medical guidelines for driver safety, we've hit some high points on commercial motor vehicle driver safety and so many others. Our web site is a good starting point if anyone has any interest in particular subjects, and from there, we're happy to put you in contact with program experts.
. Please elaborate for us regarding AAMVA's milestone accomplishment regarding National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS).

Neil Schuster: While the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System was building momentum for many years, it wasn't until Hurricane Katrina hit that the nation truly realized its value and importance-this system allows the titling agency to instantly and reliably verify the information on the paper title of a vehicle, with electronic data from the state that initially issued the title, therefore preventing a throng of fraudulent activity. The problem, for so many years, lied in the fact that NMVTIS is a federally mandated system, that wasn't providing states the funds to actively participate in it. It caused a lot of foot dragging over the years, but by working together, sharing ideas and applying for government grants, our membership has finally hit a milestone mark of 85% participation in the system. We are that much closer to 100% and that much closer to significantly reducing the number of stolen vehicles, sold lemons and other fraudulent activity. Are there any special upcoming events you'd like to mention? Who are some of the key sponsors of your Annual Conference?

Neil Schuster: Our 77th Annual International Conference was held at the end of August in Saint John , New Brunswick . Anne Ferro, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) delivered the keynote address. Administrator Ferro’s vision and mission is to eliminate severe crashes and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. She serves as the head of an agency that carries out its safety mission through a strategic mix of regulations, enforcement, research and grants to states and public outreach. At FMCSA, Anne is moving the Secretary of Transportation's safety mission forward to raise the safety bar for the motor carrier industry. She's a long-time friend and colleague of AAMVA and we were truly excited to have her lead off three days of in-depth discussions on highway safety, security and other topics of value to our membership.

Our meeting closed with the induction of a new chair for AAMVA’s 2010-2011 year, Lynne Judd, Administrator, Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles. Lynne has themed her year in line with the national strategy national strategy of driving Toward Zero Deaths. Lynne and AAMVA are committed to focusing on highway safety and partnering with other agencies as we help North America Drive Toward Zero Deaths. We read with great interest about AAMVA's Webinar Series. Please give us an overview. Are there other resources at you'd like to mention?

Neil Schuster: Our Webinar series kicked off in late spring and it's been a big hit. In these trying economic ties, it was becoming more and more difficult for our membership-which consists largely of state agencies facing very tight budgets-to find the funds to travel to meetings and events. As an association, it was our job to reevaluate how we delivered the vital information once gathered from face-to-face meetings to our membership. Webinars, we found out, allow us to do a lot of the same networking and information sharing we would do in a meeting room during a workshop-we have program experts on the line, an open flow of conversation and the ability to provide visuals and open the floor to questions. So far we've had Webinars covering topics from mini-truck best practices, to ignition interlock programs to successful partnerships with agencies that share our mission and vision. We've had great attendance, and great feedback from members. Thanks again for joining us today, Neil. Are there any other subjects you'd like to discuss?

Neil Schuster: I'd just like to thank you for taking the time to speak with me today, and remind everyone to buckle up and stay off that cell phone while driving! Safety first.