Texas Lawmakers Contemplate Ending Driver Surcharges

According to a recent article from Insurance Journal, Texas lawmakers are considering the elimination of a program that requires those charged with vehicle offenses – such as driving while intoxicated and failure to have accurate auto insurance – to pay state surcharges.

Reports estimate that nearly 60% of those with the surcharges, which adds up to roughly 1.2 million Texas drivers, are unwilling or unable to pay—resulting in $1.1 billion owed to the state.

The surcharges are part of the Texas Driver Responsibility Program.

Unfortunately, drivers who refuse to pay lose their licenses—forcing the Senate Criminal Justice Committee to ask for the program to be eliminated; calling the increasing number of drivers who are unlicensed and uninsured, because of it “unacceptable”.

The Texas Department of Public Safety, recently began offering an amnesty program in January that allows delinquent drivers to settle their pending surcharges and get their licenses back by paying a mere fraction of the amount they owed—10% to be exact.

According to the article, “DWI offenses carry the biggest surcharges – $1,000 a year for three years on the first conviction and $2,000 a year if the blood alcohol content is twice the legal limit”.

Drivers found with inaccurate or no Texas car insurance and an invalid license draw a $250-a-year surcharge for three years. It’s important to remember that surcharges must be paid in addition to regular fines assessed for those violations.

These surcharges are not changing behavior, not being collected and are creating a new class of criminals each day by adding to the 1.2 million unlicensed and uninsured drivers in the state,” the Senate committee said in a report to Texas State Legislature.

The Texas Driver Responsibility Program was approved in 2003—as an outlet in which the Legislature could raise money for highways and trauma care—however no money from the program has ever gone to highways because of a lack of payments, and trauma centers have received only a fraction of what was intended.

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