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texasdriveradmin

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We are currently collecting stories of Texans whose lives have been interrupted and made difficult by the complexity and severity of the Texas Driver Responsibility Surcharges. Currently more than a MILLION Texans have lost their drivers’ licenses because of the DRP. If you want to tell your story, click here.

David C’s Story:

I received a ticket in Indiana and a ticket in Tennessee. Texas refused to renew my driver’s license until those were paid off. I had to get to work and would have to drive anyway. How else could I provide for my family? I received at least 2 tickets for driving with an invalid license or a similar such charge.

One day I had a business partner that decided enough was enough. So we sat down and contacted Indiana and Tennessee and paid off the tickets. Then paid off Texas at $100 apiece and showed proof. I renewed my license and took off to work out of state and was stopped and detained with my new license and given another ticket for driving while license invalid and told it would be dismissed when the others were taken off the computer.

A few months later I was arrested in Canton, TX. The DPS officer said, “Well, I can see here where you paid and renewed your license, but you knew it hadn’t cleared the computer and you’re driving anyway.” Now I had a Class B Misdemeanor!

I returned to TDCJ on a parole violation and while going through parole hearings I wrote Van Zandt County / Canton, TX. They dismissed the Class B charge. But when I got out of TDCJ there was a charge for an open container that I had been on a payment plan for. To renew my license I had to finish paying that ticket, and then give DPS another $100!

I think the judges charged me 3 different times. Why double jeopardy with DPS?

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We need your voice!

The time has come to voice your concerns directly to the Legislature about Texas’ Driver Responsibility Program (DRP).

The Texas House of Representatives’ Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee has agreed to hear thoughts on improving the DRP on Monday, April 14, 2014, at 9:00 am.

For over a decade now, the DRP has unfairly burdened countless Texans and has left over a million drivers without insurance. The practice of charging additional fees with the threat of automatic license suspension must stop and we need your help.

The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition will be providing public testimony and we would be honored if you would join us and bring your stories, thoughts, and concerns about the DRP before the Legislature. Now is the time to speak up and be heard so that we can help make Texas the great state that we all know it can be.

The hearing will be held at the State Capitol Building, Room E2.010, in Austin, Texas.

Download or read our full DRP report in .pdf format.

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The Unjustified Justification of the Driver Responsibility Program (DRP)

A truly laudable intent for Texas’ Driver Responsibility Program (DRP) is to generate funds to further a worthy cause.  Seeing as these funds are to be used to aid Texas trauma hospital patients, the unfair surcharges are justified in the name of saving lives.  Right?  Tragically, even this is just another failure on the part of the state when it comes to the DRP.

In 2012, Texas trauma hospitals incurred a total of $234 million in uncompensated care costs[i] but received only $55 million in reimbursements from the state in the form of DRP surcharge revenue.[ii]  In each of the past five fiscal years, the DRP has covered between 23% and 33% of hospitals’ uncompensated care costs, amounting to 30.6% of total uncompensated care costs between fiscal years 2008 and 2012.[vi]

Why is there such a large gap in reimbursements?  Where are DRP fees really going?

The answer is disturbing but unsurprising.

The Texas Legislature deems it necessary to hoard this money in hopes of covering future budget shortfalls.  That’s right; the same Legislature that devised this scheme to help hospitals has found it best to pocket the money even if it comes at the cost of lives.

This is yet another reason we need your help to abolish this program that unfortunately has failed even by its own standards. Instead the legislature should designate money from general revenue to aid  hospitals meet the trauma needs of Texans.

Please join our efforts and share your stories!

  

[i] Figure derived from “Designated Trauma Facility and Emergency Medical Service Account: FY05-FY12 Disbursements,” prepared by the Texas Department of State Health Services and “Allocation of Driver Responsibility Revenues: FY04-FY12” prepared by the Comptroller of Public Accounts. Data available upon request.

[ii] “Calculated Uncompensated Trauma Care Costs Reported in DSHS Uncompensated Trauma Care Funding Application (2004 – 2012),” prepared by the Texas Department of State Health Services.  Data available upon request.

[iii] “Designated Trauma Facility and Emergency Medical Service Account: FY05 – FY12 Disbursements,” prepared by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Data available upon request.

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The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has created 2 programs to ease the burden of DRP surcharges on those living at or below a certain percentage of the federal poverty level.  These programs do not waive surcharges but offer the opportunity for costs to be reduced in hopes of allowing the driver to continue to be licensed.

The DRP Indigency Program is intended to aid those living at or below 125% of the federal poverty level as defined by the Department of Health and Human Services. If approved, surcharges will be reduced to 10% of the total amount assessed not to exceed $250.

The DRP Incentive Program is intended for individuals living above the 125% but below the 300% federal poverty level. If approved, applicants will see their surcharges reduced by 50%.

Either program must pay the reduced balance in full within six (6) months.  All surcharge suspensions will be lifted during this period. If the individual does not pay the balance in full by the due date, his or her driving privileges will be suspended until the reduced balance is paid in full. These programs will not remove other suspensions on the driving record.

Until written notice of approval is received all applicants must continue to pay their minimum monthly payments to avoid license suspension. Applicants must submit supporting documents to correlate with all claims on the application.  Applications found to contain fraudulent information may result in criminal penalties.

Online notices will be available 10 -14 business days after the completed application is submitted. If applied for by mail, written notices take up to 60 days after the completed application is submitted.

If additional surcharges are assessed within 90 calendar days of approval, those surcharges will be automatically reduced and a letter will be sent with the new balance due. The original due date remains the same. If new surcharges are assessed 90 days or more after the reduction approval, a new application will be required

[i] Texas Department of Public Safety, “Driver Responsibility Program”
Austin, TX: 2014, Texas Department of Public Safety
https://www.txsurchargeonline.com/(S(e5j02ox0j5f1oypj324viwc3))/default.aspx

In a previous article we explored the first tier of the two-tier system that the Department of Public Safety (DPS) uses to gauge how much one has to pay in surcharges. Now we will delve into the second level – conviction based surcharges. Unlike the point system, with conviction based surcharges the amount one has to pay is predetermined based on the type of conviction.

Since these specified offenses come with an automatic surcharge, they do not count as points on one’s driving record. Although there isn’t a corresponding point value, these offenses come at a greater cost to those convicted.

Type of Conviction

Surcharge Amount

1st Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) OffenseTexas or out-of state conviction for DWI, Intoxication Assault or Manslaughter

$1,000

Subsequent DWI OffenseTexas or out-of state conviction for DWI, Intoxication Assault or Manslaughter

$1,500

DWI with Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0.16 or MoreTexas or out-of state conviction

$2,000

No Insurance

$250

Driving While License Invalid (DWLI)Driver license is canceled, suspended, denied or revoked

$250

No Driver LicenseNo driver license or commercial driver license, an expired license or endorsement violation(s)

$100

Conviction Based surcharges are reported by the court to DPS directly. Therefore, there are often delays between the date of conviction and the date on which the conviction is actually posted to a driver’s driving record.

 [i] Texas Department of Public Safety, “Driver Responsibility Program”
Austin, TX: 2014, Texas Department of Public Safety
https://www.txsurchargeonline.com/(S(e5j02ox0j5f1oypj324viwc3))/default.aspx

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The Driver Responsibility Program (DRP) was established by the Texas Legislature in 2003. The program was designed and adopted in hopes of deterring irresponsible driving behaviors while providing revenue for the state. The DRP authorizes the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to collect surcharges – in addition to court-ordered fines and/or fees – from individuals that are convicted of traffic violations.

These surcharges are collected for three years after conviction and do not replace other suspension, revocation, disqualification or cancellation actions that result from the same convictions. In fact, these surcharges are separate from all fees, fines, and other punitive actions issued by the court entirely. However, if these surcharges are not paid in full by a given date the driver’s license is automatically suspended.

Surcharges are calculated in two ways:

  1. The Point System, and/ or
  2. Conviction Based.

The Point System:

When a conviction reaches a driver’s driving record points are assigned and remain for three years from the date of conviction. These points serve as a way to measure one’s frequency of infraction. The more points one accrues the heftier the surcharge.

–       Two points are issued for a Texas or out-of-state traffic conviction.

–       Three points are issued for a Texas or out-of-state traffic conviction that resulted in an accident.

Individuals who have six or more points on their driving record are assessed a surcharge every year they maintain six or more points. The amounts are as follows:

–       $100 for the first six points on a driving record.

–       $25 for each additional point surpassing six.

Points are not assessed for individuals who take defensive driving.

Conviction Based:

Certain offenses come with an automatic surcharge and thus do not count as points on one’s driving record. Although there isn’t a corresponding point value, these offenses come at a greater cost to those convicted. Conviction Based surcharges are reported by the court to DPS directly. Therefore, there are often delays between the date of conviction and the date on which the conviction is actually posted to a driver’s driving record.

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1 TexasDepartment of Public Safety, “Driver Responsibility Program”

Austin, TX: 2014, Texas Department of Public Safety

http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/DriverLicense/drp.htm

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10 things to know about the Texas’ Driver Responsibility Program (DRP)

  1. The DRP was passed in 2003 to create state revenue and to make Texas roads safer.
  2. The original authoring legislators no longer support this program.
  3. On top of fines, fees, and other penalties, the DRP requires annual surcharges for three years for certain offenses.
  4. If a driver fails to pay said surcharges, his or her license is automatically suspended.
  5. Surcharges are cumulative, thus a driver will pay multiple times for the same infraction.
  6. Of the $2.85 billion in levied surcharges, DPS has only collected $1.14 billion (< %40).
  7. The DRP has left 1.3 million drivers without a license – a requirement to get auto insurance.
  8. Since the DRP’s passage, the percentage of traffic fatalities involving alcohol has increased by 7.3%.
  9. Bringing cases against misdemeanors for DRP license suspensions costs local courts millions in administrative costs.
  10. It can be stopped with your help! Please join us in our efforts to repeal this program.

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[i] Craig, Adair. Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, “The Driver Responsibility Program: A Texas-Sized Failure.” Accessed March 5, 2014. http://www.texascjc.org/sites/default/files/uploads/Driver Responsibility Program.pdf.

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The two-tier system used to determine the appropriate surcharge for someone convicted of a traffic violation is unlike any other in the Department of Public Safety (DPS) repertoire. With that being said, we hope to help shed a little light on the process – starting with the default tier used to assess surcharges; the point system.

Points are a way of tracking how many recent infractions a driver has on his or her driving record. They are given two and three at a time depending on the severity of the offense. When a conviction is added to one’s driving record, points are assigned and remain for three years from the date of conviction. The more points one accrues the heftier the surcharge.

  1. Two points are issued for a Texas or out-of-state traffic conviction.
  2. Three points are issued for a Texas or out-of-state traffic conviction that resulted in an accident.

Individuals who have six or more points on their driving record are assessed a surcharge every year they maintain six or more points. The amounts are as follows:

  • $100 for the first six points on a driving record.
  • $25 for each additional point surpassing six.

Points are not assessed for individuals who take defensive driving.

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[i] Texas Department of Public Safety, “Driver Responsibility Program”
Austin, TX: 2014, Texas Department of Public Safety
https://www.txsurchargeonline.com/(S(e5j02ox0j5f1oypj324viwc3))/default.aspx

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Four Misconceptions about the Texas Driver Responsibility Program (DRP)

1. The DRP makes Texas safer

One of the program’s original intentions was to deter drunk driving, but it hasn’t actually made any empirical progress on that front. In fact, according to Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, there is no evidence whatsoever that suggests that the program increases public safety. Statistically the DRP has had no noticeable impact at all. Actually, traffic fatalities involving alcohol in Texas have increased by 7% since the program’s implementation in 2003.

 2. Texas needs the DRP financially

Considering the familial and overall social ramifications, the DPR’s damaging effect on the Texas economy is clear. Exorbitant surcharges come as a devastating blow to low-income Texas families. Many lose their jobs after having their licenses revoked and then are unable to find new places of employment without a valid license.

Moreover, many cannot then afford their increased insurance payments. In turn, some continue to drive without a license or insurance leaving the tax payers to foot the bill when incidents arise – a bill that comes to about $300 million a year.

 3. The DRP doesn’t affect you

Even if lady luck happens to be on your side with regard to traffic citations, the DPR can still be detrimental to you and your family. Approximately 1.3 million Texas drivers currently have invalid licenses because of overdue surcharges. Thus, 1.3 million Texas drivers would not meet the minimum requirement to purchase and retain automotive insurance.

Within the context of the limited public transportation infrastructure in Texas, many of those drivers have little option but to continue to drive. Given the national $18,748 average cost per accident, it is estimated that Texans are covering up to $300 million annually in uncovered damages caused by uninsured motorists.

 4. There’s nothing you can do to fix this failed program

This is unfortunately the biggest misconception of all. There are already some passionate individuals leading the charge to repeal the DRP but your help is needed! Please reach out to TCJC or contact your Texas elected officials. Together we can show them that enough is enough and make Texas a better state for it.

http://www.texastribune.org/directory/

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[i] “Motor Vehicles Affordability and Fairness Task Force Final Report,” Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center (Rutgers University) and New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, February 2006. Online at: http://www.state.nj.us/mvc/pdf/About/AFTF_final_02.pdf.

[ii] According to data from the Texas Dept. of Public Safety, as of August 31, 2011, 83% of the surcharges levied in Texas had been assessed for three violations: FMFR, No License, and DWLI.  According to the New Jersey study cited, a disproportionate share of individuals whose licenses are suspended for these three offenses make less than $28,000 per year.

[iii] “2010 Motor Vehicle Safety: Overview – Highlights,” NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts, prepared by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, February 2012. Online at: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811552.pdf

[iv] “Highway Statistics Series: Licensed Total Drivers, by Age – 2010,” prepared by the Federal Highway Administration, September 2011. Online at: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics/2010/dl22.cfm

[v] “The Economic Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes 2000,” prepared by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2002. Online at: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/809446.PDF

[vi] “Designated Trauma Facility and Emergency Medical Service Account: FY05-FY12 Disbursements,” prepared by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Data available upon request.