Texas law repeals ‘bad-driver’ fees
June 17, 2019
Gov. Greg Abbott has signed into law a bill to repeal a Texas statute that has been under fire from drivers and others for nearly two decades.
Since 2003, the state’s Driver Responsibility Program has added “bad-driver” surcharges to drivers who receive certain violations or multiple violations, such as speeding and driving without a valid license. The $300 million program doubles as a source of revenue for emergency trauma centers in the state.
Advocates say the money routed to hospitals is often used to treat people injured in bad wrecks. They add that it helps the state secure federal money related to Medicare.
One point of contention about the program is that offenders are required to pay fees annually for three years – on top of the traffic violation fine itself.
Some say the bad-driver program has created a cycle of escalating fines for low-income people who cannot afford to pay additional fines and surcharges.
Despite the complaints through the years, state lawmakers have been unwilling to abandon the source of revenue for trauma centers.
“The Texas Legislature has contemplated replacing the (Driver Responsibility Program) for more than 15 years, but we have been hesitant to change the program because it is tied to Fund 5111, which is dedicated to supporting Texas trauma care,” Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, said in prepared remarks.
Legislation introduced this year by Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, however, provides an alternative source of trauma funding to replace the driver responsibility fees.
Specifically, passage of HB2048 will raise all traffic fines in the state by $20. Insurance bills also will increase by $2. Additionally, drunken driving convictions could increase by as much as $6,000.
Beginning Sept. 1, people with suspended licenses will be able to have their driving privileges reinstated as long as the driver responsibility fees are the only thing preventing them from being able to drive legally.