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:
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.
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.
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.