Surcharge Program May Have Seen the Last of Its Funding
Posted By The Carlson Law Firm || 6-Apr-2011
Proposed and implemented with good intentions, the Texas Driver Responsibility Program appears to be on its last legs, at least in its current form. The program calls for imposing a surcharge on drivers who are convicted of certain moving violations, including driving while intoxicated. The money raised through the surcharges was supposed to go to hospital trauma centers and highway projects. To date, trauma centers have seen only portion of the intended monies and highway projects have seen none.
The surcharges, on top of the fines associated with tickets, have proven to be too burdensome or too disagreeable for some 1.2 million drivers. That amounts to nearly 60 percent of the surcharges not being paid.
As part of the program, drivers who do not pay the surcharge have their drivers’ license revoked. However, this proved to be an ineffective threat, as many chose to continue driving, drivers’ license or not.
Another problem that plagued the program was the increase in those accused of DWI requesting a trial in an effort to avoid the surcharge, according to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. Further, the committee found that the actual DWI conviction rate in Texas dropped after the implementation of the law, as many prosecutors were forced to accept pleas for lesser offenses – offenses that did not carry a surcharge.
As a response to the many unintended downsides, the state has decided to offer amnesty to drivers who have lost their license due to unpaid surcharges. The amnesty option allows those drivers to pay 10 percent of what is owed, up to $250, to get their license back. However, the amnesty program will only run for a short time.
There have been calls for a full repeal of the program, but what will be done is yet to be seen. The program, with all its good intentions, failed to raise much money or properly keep drivers who pose a risk off of the road.