Texas Driver Responsibility Program Causing Big Problems

Feb 2013

In 2003, Texas passed a Driver Responsibility program in an effort to deter Texas residents from driving drunk, driving without insurance, driving with no license or committing certain other violations. The aim of the program was to impose large surcharges on drivers convicted of various offenses in order to act as a deterrent from engaging in dangerous driving behaviors. The surcharges were on top of standard fines, penalties and punishments.

Unfortunately, the Driver Responsibility Program has had some unintended consequences which may have actually made the roads of Texas less safe. Lawmakers are currently looking at what to do about the Program and about the problems created. Our San Antonio, TX accident attorneys hope that they are able to make a decision that makes Texas a safer place to drive.

The Driver Responsibility Program Problem

When the driver responsibility program was signed into law, it created a system whereby drivers convicted of designated traffic offenses would pay thousands of dollars in fines over a three-year period of time. The revenue generated was intended to support highway projects and to be paid to hospital trauma centers.

Unfortunately, according to Dallas News, more than 1.3 million drivers in Texas who were supposed to pay their surcharges are either unable to do so or are unwilling to do so. The problem that this creates is much larger than the fact that the state is simply not getting the revenue expected. The issue is that drivers who have not paid their fines have their driver’s licenses automatically suspended.

The result is that many of the more than one million residents who haven’t paid their fines may be driving without a driver’s license. In fact, the Dallas News article suggests that as many as 60 percent of all of the drivers who have been assessed a surcharge have lost their driver’s licenses as a result of nonpayment of the large fines.

Other data also indicates that the law isn’t working very well. For example, thousands of defendants who were accused of driving while intoxicated requested a trial in order to avoid the huge DWI surcharge. This led to prosecutors being forced to accept plea bargains for lesser offenses, such as reckless driving or public intoxication, instead of plea bargains for DWI convictions. The DWI conviction rate went down for drunk driving offenses and the dismissal rate for these offenses went up as a result.

Texas Streets May Be Less Safe

It seems clear from the data that the Driver Responsibility Program has not been a success and has had many negative unintended consequences.

More driver’s without licenses, for example, means that there are more drivers who cannot get auto insurance (you need a license to get insurance to drive). Uninsured drivers typically cannot pay for damages they cause if they are responsible for a crash. This leaves victims uncompensated. Further, a driver who gets into an accident with no license may be more likely to hit and run.

For all of these reasons, lawmakers are reconsidering the Driver Responsibility Program. Ten years after it passed, it is about time to take another look.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact the Herrera Law Firm at 800-455-1054 for a confidential consultation.

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