From AP REPORTS

AUSTIN - Texans driving without insurance may have a harder time dodging a ticket when the state unveils a $6 million database in January that will give police immediate access to updated coverage information.

The Texas Financial Responsibility Verification Program targets the stateís estimated 15 to 20 percent of motorists without valid insurance. Drivers can be ticketed $175 to $350 the first time theyíre caught without a policy.

ďBefore officers ever get out of their car, they will be able to know if a driver is insured or not,Ē said Melissa Burkhart, the programís director.

But critics say similar programs in other states are plagued with problems and donít significantly reduce the number of drivers without insurance. Some in the insurance industry worry that the program could create unintended problems for drivers if the databases arenít kept current or the vehicle and insurance information donít match up.

ďWhat if I buy or sell a car and the database isnít up to date? I could be pulled over if the (vehicle identification number) doesnít match,Ē said Sandra Helin, spokesman for the Southwestern Insurance Information Service, a trade association representing most Texas insurance companies.

Under the program, insurance companies will be required to submit lists of Texas customers to the state and update them weekly to show whoís current on their payments and who isnít.

Insurance companies began submitting information into the database in June.

Another phase of the program, starting in the fall 2008, will mail warning notices to drivers in the database who do not have current policies.

The Texas Department of Insurance developed the program. Private insurance companies will maintain the database, and police can access a driverís insurance information simply by entering a license plate number.