A State House committee today will again discuss whether to alter or repeal the so called Driver Responsibility Program, which has failed in its stated attempt to improve driving habits of Texans, and has led to as many as 1.3 million people being on the road without a drivers license and without car insurance, 1200 WOAI news reports.
The program, which was passed in the 'recession session' of 2003, tacks huge additional fees onto fines paid by motorists for moving violations ranging from speeding to drunk driving. The fees can be as much as $1,000 a year for three years, in addition to the fine, with the money going to fund hospital trauma centers.
The DRP is an example of how a program which sounds fantastic to the upper middle class lawyers and business owners who make up the Legislative class, these people are clueless about the real problems facing the same low income Texans that many of them insist so vociferously that they represent.
Ana Yanez-Correa, who heads the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, says outside the bubble where the lawmakers live and in the real world, millions of low income Texans are unable to afford these fees.
"There are 1.3 million Texans right now driving without their license," she said. "People still have to take their children to school, they still have to go to work."
And, of course, when a motorist drops his or her drivers license due to an inability to pay the fees included in the DPR, the motorist also drops car insurance. Officials estimate that the number of motorists driving without mandatory liability coverage has doubled in the past eleven years, due directly to the effects of this poorly thought out law.
"The promise that this law would lead to better, more responsible drivers has been completely broken," Yanez-Correa said.
And she says that doesn't include the basic issue of unfairness. Motorists get a ticket and they pay their fine, go through driver education, get probation, and follow the law. Then, frequently as long as nine months after getting the ticket they thought they had paid, here comes a letter from a mysterious bureaucrat telling them they owe thousands of dollars more.
"When you speed and you pay your speeding ticket, that should be it," she said. "You shouldn’t then be required to pay, for three consecutive years, a fee that you can't afford, and which requires that you give up your drivers license because you can't pay."
The Legislature regularly tries to eliminate the DRP, but has failed largely because lawmakers don't have the courage to tap another revenue source to provide funding for trauma hospitals.
Also, as Yanez-Correa points out, wealthy hospitals have far better lobbyists than poor people have.