Sunday, August 09, 2009

Suspending drivers licenses for 'economic crimes' problematic here and abroad

After proposing a new amnesty program last week for Texas' so-called "Driver Responsibility" surcharge, I was interested to see via the blog Pardon Power that the President of South Korea plans to pardon 1.5 million people for "economic crimes," and "in particular people who earn a living by driving but have had their drivers' license suspended," according to the Korea Herald. Apparently, South Korea's leaders believe the detriments from creating so many unlicensed drivers harms their economy more than their punishment benefits public safety.

So-called "driver responsibility" programs across the United States exhibit the same problem, as described today in an editorial out of Michigan urging the state to "Declare an amnesty. Let people regain their driver's licenses if they can pay some portion of their debt."

In Texas, 6% of drivers owe a "driver responsibility" surcharge according to the vendor in charge of collections, and according to an article this week about Grits' petition in the El Paso Times, "Unpaid bills have meant that nearly 2.7 million Texas drivers' licenses have been suspended." Reporter Brandi Grissom cited this example from Sun City:

El Pasoan James Perry, a rodeo clown who also runs a charter bus service, said an extended payment program would have helped him keep his license. He lost it in 2007.

Perry said he had been making payments on $530 worth of surcharges for driving without proof of insurance.

He missed one payment and was told he would have to pay the entire amount to get his license back.

"They don't give you a second chance," he said.

Under the proposed rule revisions, Perry could have regained his driver license merely by resuming installment payments, conditions that better encourage compliance with the law and will allow hundreds of thousands of Texans to get their license back.

Public Safety Commission Chairman Allan Polunsky told Grissom, "I am certainly not opposed conceptually to some type of indigency program ... as long as the department has the authority to implement one." That's encouraging, because the Lege clearly gave the PSC that power with SB 1723 by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, legislation which passed in 2007. The DPS Sunset bill requires the agency to implement an indigency program by Sept. 1, 2009, and to comply with specific provisions (including waiving fees for drivers with incomes below 125% of poverty) by 2011.

Chairman Polunsky re-affirmed to Grissom that the Driver Responsibility surcharge will be on the Commission's agenda when they meet later this month. By law the commission must consider the Grits petition in a public hearing because it included 25 signatures.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is why I think we can end the drug war, there are so many other idiots out there who drive when they shouldn't or drive drunk. Get rid of the prohibition on drugs and to put these people in prison.

Anonymous said...

What is the goal of financial responsibilty as it relates to the operation of a motor vehicle? Is it to promote safe driving? No.

It was supposedly designed to provide a way for a civil wrong to be righted, to pay for damages caused in a motor vehicle accident.

Since then, the state has seen opportunities to amend the original law and apply it to DWI and DWLS convictions in order to generate more state revenue. Let's do away with these so called civil surcharges. They amount to nothing more than additional punishment.

Lets do away with the liability insurance law. If you are concerned about being invloved in an accident with an unisnured driver, buy uninsured motorist coverage. Uninsured coverage is shockingly inexpensive when compared with other insurance costs. On average, it comes out to at or around 10% of your entire car insurance premium.

Anonymous said...

And North Korea is ahead of us on correcting this?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

South Korea, but still ...

Anonymous said...

The DRP was never anything more than Mike Krusee's idea of a way to generate revenue. It hasn't done that for the state, the collection rate is horrible. It has, in fact, forced costs onto the counties in the way of jail costs. Occasionally, we experience stupid legislation. This program is absolutely redefines stupid.

Anonymous said...

If we do away with the liability insurance laws, you can bet that paying for the uninsured motorist coverage will certainly go up. If people dont have to have liability,I think tons of folks will drop it-so uninsured motorist coverage will sky rocket-its common sense.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

That's probably true, 6:00 a.m. ... My own personal preference, would be a "pay at the pump" scheme for basic liability insurance so everybody has to pay and we don't need to use the justice system at all to enforce it.

However, under the Orwellian-named Driver Responsibility program, government policies make it MORE likely people will drive without a license and insurance. Those who have their license suspended can't then get insurance but typically still need to drive to work and function in a society with virtually no workable public transit system.

Charles said...

Pay at the pump makes sense to me. Is it even being considered at the lege? Insurance companies would hate it. Probably DPS wouldn't like it either.

Anonymous said...

The difference between the US and S. Korea however is there, mostly rural farmers are the ones driving, and just like in China and Japan they use alternative means of travel such as bicycle or buses. I have been there, and believe me other than the larger three cities not alot of people drive in comparison to how many they have in population. If this guy can see the detriment of holding someone's license, you would imagine that our leadership could see it as well, but we are in a retribution society and not a restorative one.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we should just cast aside the charade and create "Debtors' Prisons?" I'm sure the credit card industry and Texas Home Owners' Associations would be on board.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we should just cast aside the charade and create "Debtors' Prisons?"

We already have that, it is called an IRS Lien.