As mentioned previously, 1.3 million Texas drivers currently have invalid licenses because of overdue DRP surcharges. Since a valid driver’s license is a requirement to purchase liability insurance, many of those drivers are no longer able to insure their vehicles. Given the lack of viable transportation alternatives in most of Texas (especially rural areas), large numbers – if not virtually all – of those drivers likely continue to drive.
These additional uninsured drivers constitute a significant cost to the Texas public. In 2010, there were 5,419,000 crashes[i] in the United States and 210,114,939 licensed drivers,[ii] yielding an overall accident rate of 2.58%. If we assume those 1.3 million surcharge debtors in Texas who lost their licenses (and therefore became ineligible to purchase insurance) continued to drive, and that they crash at the same rate as other drivers, then by reducing the number of insured drivers, drivers who lost their license through the DRP are involved in approximately 33,000 accidents per year. If DRP drivers were the responsible party in half of those accidents (a conservative estimate, as drivers with bad driving histories may be more likely to be at fault), then the DRP could be responsible for an additional 16,000 accidents per year in which the party at fault is not insured.
Those accidents cost Texans dearly in the form of uncompensated damages. In 2000, a federal study analyzed costs from auto accidents, including medical costs, property damage, etc., attributing $230.6 billion in costs to 16.4 million auto accidents nationwide, at an average cost of $14,061 per accident.[iii] Adjusting for inflation, that’s $18,748 in 2012 dollars. Multiplying that figure by the number of estimated crashes with surcharge-owing drivers in Texas, the DRP could be costing Texans $300 million per year in uncovered damages from crashes, with uninsured motorists unable to obtain or keep insurance simply because those drivers could not or would not pay punitive drivers’ license surcharges.
$300 million is more than five times the amount of DRP surcharge revenue distributed to Texas trauma hospitals in 2012, and over four times the average annual amount distributed in the past five years.[iv] What’s more, $300 million is almost twice the average annual total amount of surcharge revenue generated by the DRP since its creation in 2003.[v] These costs in uncompensated damages are unintended consequences of the DRP, but they are costs that Texans cannot afford.
Of particular concern are individuals with DWI offenses who lose their licenses and continue to drive. When those drivers are involved in crashes, the DRP makes it less likely they will have insurance to cover damages. Despite claims to the contrary when the DRP was adopted by the Legislature, DRP surcharges have resulted in more uninsured drunks on Texas roads – not fewer.
[i] “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
[ii] “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
[iv] “Designated Trauma Facility and Emergency Medical Service Account: FY05-FY12 Disbursements,” prepared by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Data available upon request.