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Accident leads DMV to reinforce policy

Oct. 29, 2012 @ 12:41 AM

HUNTINGTON -- A traffic accident in Huntington on Oct. 6 is leading the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles to send a memo to fire chiefs and directors of county emergency medical services across the state to reinforce a policy on specialized license plates.

In that accident, a 49-year-old Huntington man turned left into oncoming traffic at 8th Avenue and 31st Street in Huntington. He tried to flee, but was stopped by damage to his right front tire.

The man had an ES license plate, which are only issued to employees of a county's EMS department. Officers asked the man if he was employed with Cabell County EMS, and he identified himself as a former employee. Gordon Merry, the director of Cabell County EMS, was contacted and told police the man hadn't worked with the county's EMS system since the late 1980s.

Merry said said he wasn't sure how or why the driver had been able to renew his ES license plate for the past 23 years without providing some proof.

Steve Dale, the deputy commissioner for the DMV, said although the man had plenty of opportunities to turn in the special license plate on his own, the policy actually directs chiefs and directors to notify the DMV.

"We possibly need to reinforce policies that are in place and alert all the chiefs to be serious about certifying the plates," Dale said. "We will send out a memo and refresh everyone's memories."

There are dozens of specialized plates available, but there are a few that must be certified prior to being issued. Dale said the EMS and firefighter plates are the only ones that go through the same process. The driver must make the request and then provide written confirmation from his or her director or chief that they are an employee or volunteer, in the case of most fire departments.

Dale reiterated the license plate does not convey special privileges other than to identify the person as a part of that organization. But he said the accident in Huntington can reflect poorly on the department because of the number of people who could have seen the license plate and associated the accident with Cabell County EMS.

The man was charged with misdemeanor counts of driving on a suspended license -- for unpaid citations -- and driving under the influence.

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