Program Facts

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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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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.

Above and beyond any criminal penalties and court fines, the DRP requires the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to assess annual, administrative surcharges on the drivers’ licenses of persons convicted of certain traffic offenses. Surcharges are levied every year for three years. If a driver fails to pay assessed surcharges, the program requires DPS to automatically suspend the person’s driver’s license until the debt is paid.

The DPS levies surcharges in two ways:

  • a point system based on the commission of moving (e.g., traffi c) violations, and
  • a conviction-based surcharge for the commission of certain higher-level traffic offenses.

Under the point system, drivers convicted of Class C Misdemeanor moving violations accrue two points for each conviction and three points for moving violations resulting in vehicle accidents. No points are accrued for speeding violations less than 10% over the speed limit. If a driver accrues six or more points during a three-year period, a surcharge is assessed on that person’s driver’s license. An annual surcharge of $100 is levied for the first six points accrued on a person’s driving record, and $25 for each additional point.

Under the conviction-based system, DPS levies automatic surcharges upon conviction of the following traffic offenses:

  • Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)
  • Driving While License Invalid (DWLI)
  • No License
  • Failure to Maintain Financial Responsibility (FMFR) (or “No Insurance”)

For DWI convictions, the DPS levies an annual surcharge of $1,000 for a first offense, $1,500 for a second offense, and $2,000 if the driver’s blood alcohol content is 0.16 or more at the time of arrest. For DWLI or FMFR convictions, the annual surcharge is $250. The surcharge for No License is $100.

Because surcharges are cumulative, a driver could pay surcharges for points as well as for specific convictions at the same time – substantially increasing surcharges owed. Conviction-based surcharges are also cumulative. For example, a person convicted of a first DWI in 2011 and a second DWI in 2012 would be charged $1,000 per year for three years for the first offense and $1,500 per year for three years for the second offense, for a total of $7,500 in surcharges over a four-year period.

DPS notifies individuals of assessed surcharges and the penalty for non-payment of the surcharges. If an individual has not paid the surcharge (or agreed to an installment plan) within 105 days of assessment, his or her driver’s license is automatically suspended.

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Read our entire report here…

In 2003, the Texas Legislature enacted a new system of drivers’ license surcharges called the Driver Responsibility Program (DRP). The stated purpose of the program was to enhance public safety.1 Given the $10 billion budget shortfall that year, however, lawmakers also saw the program as an innovative way to fund Texas trauma centers and to generate much needed revenue for the state.

The DRP has failed on nearly every front. It has generated less than half of the revenue anticipated, largely due to an extremely low collection rate. As of the end of fiscal year 2012, less than 40% of the surcharges assessed since the program’s inception had been collected, despite changes made to the program during the 2009 and 2011 state legislative sessions to induce more Texans to pay overdue surcharges.

“I think it’s past ime to either revise or repeal the program.” – Former State Rep. Mike Krusee (R-Round Rock), lead author of the bill that created the DRP in 2003

Of even greater concern is the DRP’s adverse impact on public safety. Unable or unwilling to pay the surcharges (on top of criminal penalties and court fines), nearly 1.3 million drivers now have invalid licenses,which could jeopardize their liability insurance policies. As such, the program has likely increased the number of uninsured motorists on Texas roads – and the cost of accidents with drivers lacking liability insurance. Furthermore, while overall traffic fatalities in Texas have decreased somewhat in recent years, data indicate that the program has failed to change driver behavior as it relates to a significant traffic-related offense: drunk driving. Since the DRP’s inception in 2003, the percentage of traffic fatalities involving alcohol increased from 27% to 34%.3

Based on the DRP’s record, if lawmakers fail to repeal or substantially revise the program, the Legislature may want to commemorate the program’s first decade of operation in 2013 by renaming it the “Driver Irresponsibility Program.”

In light of the economic blow that the DRP deals to families, as well as the deleterious effect the program is having on Texas’ court system and communities, it is clear that the Driver Responsibility Program is fundamentally flawed. Those flaws, combined with increasing calls by Texans caught in spiraling surcharge debt, have led to a growing, bipartisan coalition of lawmakers calling for the program’s repeal.4 Even the original author of the bill creating the program has called for the DRP to be revised or repealed.

The DRP has been successful on one front, however. Half of revenue generated by the DRP is directed to a General Revenue “dedicated” account that provides tens of millions of dollars per year for Texas hospitals designated as “trauma centers;” these centers absorb hundreds of millions of dollars in uncompensated healthcare costs every year. While DRP revenue covers less than one-third of those uncompensated care costs, the amount is not insignificant. Unfortunately, budget writers have allowed the dedicated “Trauma Facility & Emergency Medical Services Account” to accumulate a balance of over $370 million in unappropriated funds to help balance the biennial budget – money that could be used to defray an even larger portion of the hospitals’ costs.

For the reasons enumerated in this report, we believe lawmakers should abolish the DRP or fundamentally reform it and create an alternative funding mechanism for Texas trauma centers. Despite the importance of the Texas trauma system and its need for a stable revenue stream to pay for uncompensated care, the failed Driver Responsibility Program is not the answer.

Read our entire report here…

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This report will analyze the many failures of Texas’ Driver Responsibility Program and make recommendaions to the Legislature for its revision or repeal, including alternaive sources of funding for the Texas trauma system.