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Traffic violators finally get bills

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  • Traffic violators finally get bills

    Sept. 30, 2004, 1:07PM

    Delayed one year by computer glitch, surcharges now due
    Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau

    AUSTIN - The fine is in the mail.

    For a year, Texans got a break from surcharges that lawmakers heaped on certain traffic violations, thanks to a delay caused by a software problem at the Department of Public Safety.

    But that problem has been fixed, and nearly 200,000 notices are being sent at a rate of 5,000 a day to violators who face a surcharge on their traffic fines. Failure to pay will result in the loss of the driver's license.

    The hefty surcharges — totaling $67 million since they went into effect a year ago — are aimed at Texans who drive without a license or insurance or while drunk.

    The law is expected to raise about $1 billion for trauma care over the first five years and another $1 billion for highways and general revenue funds.

    A person fined for driving without a license will have to pay an extra $100 a year for three years. Driving without insurance or with a license that's been revoked will add a surcharge of $250 a year for three years.

    A first driving-while-intoxicated conviction will include a surcharge of $1,000 a year for three years — double that for drivers whose blood alcohol was 0.16 or more.

    Notices of the surcharge will arrive for those who have received such traffic convictions since September 2003, but they also will apply in the future.

    How will Texans react if they get the bad news in the mail?

    "I think they'll be surprised. I think they'll be mad. That doesn't make it a bad idea," said Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, who sponsored the measure in the Senate.

    'No sympathy for DWIs'

    The author, Rep. Dianne Delisi, R-Temple, said she has little sympathy for Texans who will soon receive notices of the expensive surcharges.

    "If you look at the folks that are in the system now, I have no sympathy for DWIs. They can howl all they want to."

    The get-tough surcharges are patterned after a New Jersey program, in effect for more than 15 years, that has dramatically changed driver behavior, according to Delisi's office.

    "They went back and measured since they first had it in place. There was a 24 percent reduction in fatalities. Phenomenal, isn't it?" Delisi said.

    She added that Texas has the highest number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities in the United States, but it will take until 2007 or 2008 to see if the financial penalties bring the desired results.

    It was not immediately clear how many Harris County drivers will be subject to the surcharges. Statewide, more than 114,000 drivers without liability insurance make up more than half of those subject to the surcharges.

    More than 47,500 surcharges are aimed at those driving without a license, followed by more than 23,300 for those with DWI-related offenses.

    Those who are financially unable or refuse to pay the surcharges will lose their driver's license. Delisi says the plan is not unfair to the indigent because it includes provisions for paying in installments.

    Those getting the notices have 30 days to either pay the surcharges or make arrangements for paying them, according to the DPS.

    Drivers convicted of the offenses are subject to the charges, which cannot be avoided by taking defensive driving classes, officials said.

    Meanwhile, 318 Texas drivers have been assigned points under the new law based on certain moving violations in Texas or another state.

    Point system charges

    Any driver assigned six points in any three-year period must pay $100 each year the six points remain. Additional points result in extra $25 charges. The points cycle off a person's record after three years.

    Two points are assigned for moving violations, and three points will result for a moving violation that results in a crash.

    Speeding tickets for less than 10 percent of a posted limit are excluded from the point system, as are seatbelt violations.

    Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday that $18 million has already been distributed to trauma care centers across Texas as a result of the Driver Responsibility Program.

    The money comes from $30 traffic fines tacked on nearly all moving violations.

    "These funds could not come at a more critical time and will help our trauma centers expand their capacity, ensure that sufficient doctors and specialists are on duty at all times and prevent the diversion of patients to far-away hospitals," Perry said at Parkland Hospital in Dallas.

    Source: Houston Chronicle
    "Blue Oh-Two" (#424)
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  • #2
    This is theft... just an outright fleecing of the citizens of Texas.

    Using law enforcement as a fund-raising tool - as so many texas towns do with their speed traps - has always made me mad... and the idea that people won't drink and drive because the fines were just raised again is ridiculous.

    I can't imagine a scenario where a guy who's had a few too many walks toward his car with his keys in his hand. Suddenly he stops and thinks "hey - I heard somewhere that they made DWIs more expensive - and since I can't hold my liqour worth a darn and I'm obviously intoxicated, I think I'll call a cab!".

    If stiff penalties were a deterrent to people doing things they shouldn't - why do we still have murders and armed robbery and the like?


    • #3

      S2KCA - The S2000 Club of America


      • #4
        Kaiser, you hit the nail on the head. It's not about deterrance, it's about reaching into your wallet. It's a money grab...which is what the Texas legistlature is all about, just like any other state legislature. It's not about public safety and this BS about all the money going to 'trauma care.' Yeah, right...just like all those proceeds (what, I'm assuming billions by now?) from the lottery went to education...yea, sure it did...(wink wink).

        If it were TRULY about public safety, those who drive without a license because they don't have the money should be able to serve some kind of community service to cover the costs of either the fine, the license itself or both. But alas, it's not about safety, it's about money...and the more of yours they have (and mine being in Texas), the happier they are. Just like the 55mph speed limit was in its hayday, it's (thankfully) going away slowly but surely...and to replace it? You will be fined into compliance...und you vill like it! All in the name of public safety...

        Con-artists extraodinare...

        "Live for yourself -- there's no one else more worth living for."
        --Rush, 'Anthem' on Fly by Night - 1975