State leaders asking for changes to Driver Responsibilty Program

AUSTIN (KXAN) — State leaders say nearly 13 percent of Texas drivers are on the road without a license or insurance. But changes could be coming to make things safer and maybe more affordable.

Rep. Joe Pickett says he voted in favor of the Driver Responsibility Program 10 years ago. Violators receive a ticket and sometimes an extra $250 surcharge for driving without a license or insurance. But Pickett says the system needs to be tweaked.

GOING IN-DEPTH // SURCHARGES

  • Driving without insurance will cost you $250.
  • Driving without a valid license is another $250.
  • Driving without a license is $100.
  • Keep in mind these surcharges are not one time fees. You have to pay them each year for three years, so each surcharge triples.
  • Half of the money collected toward hospitals with trauma centers. In 2012, that was close to $55 million.

“Since the program has been created we’re struggling with collecting 40 something percent of the moneys received.”

Since the program began in 2003, more than 1 million drivers who have not paid those fines have had their licenses suspended, Pickett added. Still, many of them remain on the road.

That’s why Pickett says he will recommend some changes in a legislative hearing this week.

“Your first offense with no insurance, we’ll forgive it if you go get insurance in 20 days and prove you have a six month insurance policy,” he recommended.

At least seven states have enacted surcharges like those but several others repealed the fines or scaled them back.

Texas lawmakers will take a look at the issue Tuesday at the state Capitol but any changes would not happen until at least this next legislative session.

The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition opposes the program and says the money raised for hospitals is significant, but there are better ways to fund medical care.

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