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Possible Changes Coming To Texas DWI Surcharges

Should Texas kill driver responsibility program?

This Fort Worth Star-Telegram article discusses an important DWI-related to topic being addressed in the Texas legislature. The Driver Responsibility Act (DRA) was enacted in 2003 and the intention was to impose fines and surcharges on Texas drivers who have been cited for moving violations. The system is based on points, where drivers receive two points for a typical moving violation and three points for a violation that results in an accident. A driver who has “earned” six points would be required to pay a $100 surcharge each year the points are on their license, and points stay on a driver’s record for three years. For Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) offenses, the surcharges are much larger. A driver convicted of a first DWI incurs a $1,000 per year surcharge. A driver convicted of a DWI with a blood alcohol content (BAC) greater than 0.15 incurs a $2,000 surcharge.

The surcharges are under widespread attack in the legislature because most believe that they have proven to be counterproductive. The goal was to make Texas drivers better and to provide funding for hospital trauma centers. But in practice, the large surcharges have forced many Texans to stop driving at all, costing them employment opportunities and even family relationships. They have also resulted in many Texans driving without a license at all. This is a terrible outcome that makes Texas roads and highways more dangerous because these drivers have no liability insurance.

There are various proposals to eliminate or reduce the surcharge. One plan proposed by a Tarrant County legislator would reduce or waive DWI surcharges for drivers who participate in drug court programs. It will be of great interest to see what the legislature does on this topic. Like many things the government does, a good intention does not guarantee a good result. With surcharges, the idea was to use fines to encourage Texans to become better drivers and to fund needed hospital services. But the result has been counterproductive as high surcharges have caused many Texans to lose their ability to drive at all.

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