Texas' Driver Responsibility Program imposes surcharges on drivers for traffic violations from speeding and accidents to driving while intoxicated or without a license. Created by the Legislature in 2003, the program was designed to address both driver responsibility and the state's $10 billion budget shortfall.The program is managed by the Texas Department of Public Safety and requires offenders to pay annual surcharges ranging from $100 to $2,000 in addition to costs associated with the initial infraction. It also generates millions each year for hospitals and trauma centers. Advocates say "these much-needed funds are critical for maintaining a trauma safety net in Texas" and that the program is "key to [a] strong trauma care system."
Critics say the program is an unfair tax on poor Texans, that it has created a debtor's prison and is a trap for Texas drivers. According to the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, as of 2012 less than 40 percent of the surcharges assessed since the program's inception had been collected and 1.3 million drivers had invalid licenses.
Introduced in the 84th Legislative Session, Senate Bill 93 intended to weaken the Driver Responsibility Program but did not pass. State Rep. James White (R) introduced House Bill 67 in November 2016, which aims to repeal the program entirely.
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