AUSTIN (KXAN) — Tawny Solbrig wept moments after telling the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles it not only failed the state but also her son, who was killed in a crash with a driver with temporary tags.
“He was funny,” she said of her late son. “He was a six-four gentle giant.”
The New Braunfels mother says her son, Terrin, was 18 when he died in 2020. The other driver involved in the collision was in the center lane when he collided head-on with Terrin, Solbrig said, adding he was never charged with a crime. She says he never should have been on the road.
“This accident would have never happened if the other driver did not obtain illegal paper tags through your failed system,” she told the board during an emergency meeting Thursday.
A month after a series of KXAN investigations revealed crooks are infiltrating the TxDMV’s system, often using stolen identities, to obtain car dealership licenses allowing them to fraudulently produce and sell real temporary tags all over the US, the state is now cracking down.
It is a problem that has been ongoing, and complained about by law enforcement, for years. KXAN first began investigating back in 2017.
“My staff are committed to working with law enforcement in every we can,” said TxDMV Executive Director Whitney Brewster. “To end this illegal activity.”
To stop criminals from using stolen IDs to obtain licenses, the board voted unanimously to limit the number of paper plates dealers can issue in a year. For franchises, it’s double their projected sales. Used car dealers are capped at 900 a year.
The board also voted unanimously to “immediately” cut off access to its temporary tag system for any dealers suspected of fraud.
“Matt you, you exposing it,” said Sgt. Jose Escribano with Travis County Constable Pct. 3, to KXAN investigator Matt Grant, “if it wasn’t for that, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, we wouldn’t be here.”
Escribano has been leading the charge to stop the state’s paper plate problem.
“Do you think the changes announced today will actually help and make a difference?,” Grant asked.
“I think that the change, as far as them being able to cut it off,” he said, “yes.”
Escribano wants a robust fingerprint check for all non-franchise car dealership applicants. The board punted on making a final decision on what that would look like, asking staff to quickly study the issue. It could take “several months,” a spokesperson said, before it comes back to the board for a final vote.
The board also pledged more cooperation with law enforcement and discussed appointing a liaison to be a direct point of contact.
For Solbrig, the changes come two years too late.
“It’s because of our son that we’re here,” said Solbrig, tearing up. “I wanted to give him a voice.”