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Does DMV Have A Secret File On You?

It's not a pretty thought, but Oregon's DMV may just have a secret file on you.

The state's Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division acknowledges that.  Some of those files may be reports from citizens, or from a doctor questioning your competency as a driver.

Thursday the Oregon Transportation Commission is expected to change how rules apply to DMV reports that are filed by a police officer.  Andrew Theen explains.

Scott Rohter runs an appliance repair  service in Vida east of Eugene.  Rohter drives a lot.  He drives at odd hours, and he is no stranger to the traffic stop.

Rohter insists despite that, he isn't a bad driver.  But in December Rohter got a letter from the DMV asking him to come in and retake the drivers' test.  Someone had expressed concern about his competency as a driver.

Rohter's response when he got the letter?

Scott Rohter: "What the heck are they talking about?"

Rohter alternates between the terms "wild goose chase" and "witch hunt" to describe his predicament.  He says he was pulled over twice recently by a state trooper.  The trooper didn't cite him, but filed a report mentioning his "failure to maintain lanes."

The Transportation Commission is changing the law to make those officer reports public.  But that same report referenced cell phones from local residents that painted Rohter as a dangerous driver.  And those reports remain off limits to Rohter.

Scott Rohter: "I don't think anybody should be able to file any report, about anyone else in secret.  This is the department of transportation, not the department of homeland security."

Oregon DMV officials say the practice of holding confidential reports on drivers started at least 20 years ago.

The rules were amended in 2003 as part of the so-called Medically At-Risk Drivers program.  That program allows doctors to report a patient who they deem unfit to drive, and remain confidential in doing so.

The DMV's David House says that program isn't changing, but the DMV is responding specifically to some of Rohter's concerns.

David House: "Once Mr. Rohter brought it to our attention we started the administrative rules making process to remove that ability for law enforcement to request that their names be withheld in the reports they make to DMV of questionable driving behaviors."

About half  of the 2,000 or so reports the DMV gets each year come from police officers.

House says the rule change is a minor issue.  He says the DMV doesn't have to release reports from citizens or doctors and does not intend to change its policy.  But he says those reports are carefully scrutinized.

David House: "They can't be anonymous.  The reporting person has to provide DMV with their name and contact information.  And they can't just report on anyone on the street, they have to know the person, they have to know their name, not simply a license plate number."

Scott Rohter believes certain members of the public, and indeed  law enforcement officers are out to get him.

He says he spoke with a local officer, who told him, everyone knew about his "notorious driving record."  But Rohter wants to know who in his community is "snitching on him."

Scott Rohter: "It all comes back to a few people down the road who have made it their life's goal to hassle me, and the DMV has absolutely, though they claim to have them, no protections to keep me safe from people like that."

David House with the DMV says Rohter, and others whose driving is questioned need to retake certain tests regardless of who filed the report.

David House: "It could be their physician, it could be law enforcement, or it could be DMV itself requests people to retake the vision, the driving and the knowledge tests.  Everyone should be expected to be able to pass those, even if it requires a little bit of studying on the driver's manual."

House adds that Rohter and others  can contest this  process in an administrative hearing.  In those circumstances confidential reports are made available.

For his part, Scott Rohter says he'll fight the DMV on this issue — and  says he won't stop till he sees every secret file the agency has  on him.