Proposed Bill Would End Texas’ Controversial Driver Responsibility Program

April 15, 2019

Texas’ Driver Responsibility Program (DRP) would be repealed under a bill considered by the Senate Finance Committee, the state Senate reported.

The program has been heavily criticized for the financial burden it places on those affected, according to the Senate’s media release.

The program, known as the “points system,” adds compounding penalties to drivers as they are convicted of traffic violations. A driver who commits a moving violation can get two “points” on their drivers license, and three if the violation results in a car crash. Points stay on a license for three years and if a license accrues six points, the driver is assessed a $100 surcharge at the end of the year. That fine goes up $25 for every additional point above six.

There are additional surcharges for more serious violations: $1000 for a driver’s first intoxicated driving conviction and increasing for each subsequent conviction.

Driving with a suspended license or without insurance incurs $250 surcharges.

This program has been widely condemned for many sessions by citizens and lawmakers alike for putting unreasonable financial burdens on drivers, who can lose their license until they pay off all their DRP fines.

Over the course of 15 years, the Legislature has made various attempts to repeal the program, but the problem is that it helps to pay for trauma care at Texas hospitals, some $300 million per biennium. How to replace that money that helps finance the care of 130,000 people every year who need critical trauma services in the state, has been the sticking point.

Houston Senator Joan Huffman has offered a bill that will end the DRP while covering nearly all of the loss in revenue to the state trauma fund.

SB 918, would repeal the program, remove existing points, and restore any licenses suspended solely due to non-payment. It would address the funding gap by creating additional one-time fines and fees for traffic offenses, rather than the compounding fine structure of the DRP.

The state base traffic violation fee would rise from $30 to $50 and it doubles the fee that insurers add to each individual auto policy, from $2 to $4. Fines for DWI convictions would also go up, from $1000 to $3000 for a first offense, up to $6000 for driving with a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit. Huffman says these new fines and fees will cover all but about $30 million of current DRP revenue.

Huffman says she intends to hold her bill and wait for the House version, authored by Richmond Representative John Zerwas, to make its way to the Senate. In the meantime, she pledged to work with Senators to address any concerns.

Source: Texas Senate

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