AUSTIN (KXAN) — A controversial program that allowed law enforcement to charge drivers additional fees and suspend licenses for Texans with outstanding traffic fines will no longer be in effect starting next week.
House Bill 2048 passed and became a law going into effect Sept. 1, repealing the Driver’s Responsibility Program. The program began in September 2003 to establish a system to assess a surcharge based on a driver’s traffic offenses.
“The DRP generates fines and surcharges from drivers with certain moving violations such as reckless driving and excessive speeding violations and from drivers with DWI convictions or driving without insurance,” State Rep. John Zerwas said while presenting the legislation to lawmakers to repeal the plan on the House floor in May.
As a result, nearly 10% of Texas drivers — about 1.4 million people — had suspended licenses because of the outstanding fees and Texas suspended more licenses than any other state.
“All existing DRP surcharge assessments and suspensions will be waived (starting Sept. 1), and no additional surcharges or suspensions related to DRP will be assessed after that date,” a release from the Texas Department of Public Safety indicated.
Karly Jo Dixon, staff attorney with the Texas Fair Defense Project, said the program disproportionately targeted low-income drivers in the state who were unable to pay extra fines and fees levied on convictions from traffic violations.
“It is not an indicator if you have surcharges that you are a bad driver,” Dixon explained.
The effort to get rid of the program began soon after the program started in the mid-2000s. That process was made more complicated since funds tallied up from the program paid partially for Texas trauma hospitals.
“It really took some creative thinking to find other mechanisms to fund the trauma hospitals,” Dixon mentioned.
Starting Sept. 1, drivers around the state will share the costs. State traffic fines will increase from $30 to $50. Motor vehicle insurance companies will pay $4 per car, per year, in insurance fees, instead of $2. DWI fines will also increase.
A chunk of the Texans with suspended licenses will be immediately eligible to get their license reinstated starting next week.
“600,000 drivers are going to be immediately eligible to get their driver’s license or to go renew it,” Dixon said. “There are about 400,000 that are going to have to pay a fee — it’s called a reinstatement fee — that fee has no program to reduce or waive it — and about 400,000 are going to have their license (remain) suspended for other reasons.”
Drivers with non-DRP suspensions, fines or fees are still responsible to pay them. You can check the status of your driving privileges or pay reinstatement fees on the DPS website.
For more information, you can view a list of DRP-related FAQs or email DRPRepeal@dps.texas.gov.