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Little Known Surcharges Are Costing Texan Drivers Millions

You may vaguely remember that the penalties for certain dangerous driving citations, such as operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, can range into the thousands of dollars from classes at an approved Texas driving online course. The number of motorists it now affects, however, ranges into the hundreds of thousands.

In fact, more than one million residents are at risk of losing their license because they have failed to pay roughly $1 billion in violation surcharges, according to the officials responsible for implementing the Driver Responsibility Act.

The issue for many motorists is that the fines can be particularly prohibitive: drunk driving carries a fine of $1,000 per year over a three year period for first offenders and double that for those whose BAC tested at twice the legal limit.

While some legislators have argued that the fines target new drivers, the less affluent and others who may be unable to pay the fees, the number of offenses that merit losing one's license is a large one.

For example, driving while intoxicated can lead to fines, but so too can driving without a valid license as well as not having a minimum level of auto insurance. One in five motorists is not covered to the state requirements, and drivers risk fines and the loss of their driving privileges if caught by law enforcement officials.

The least affluent among Texas residents may be exempt from some of the costs of these violations if they can prove indigency, according to state officials. However, other groups such as young adults and students can find that their license has been suspended because of lack of insurance or from violations that occurred in other states.

Supporters of the Driver Responsibility Act note that the increased income the state has garnered has helped trauma centers who are tasked with treating those involved in motor vehicle accidents, and whose bill would normally end up being paid by responsible taxpayers.

State Representative Vicki Truitt told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, "If it is impossible to collect the fines or puts unreasonable hardships on people to the point where it prohibits people from working, that is, no doubt, problematic, and we need to try to correct it."

Still, more than one million Texans are now driving with suspended or void licenses, and while Texas driving schools may help motorists learn about the potentially costly penalties currently in place, there is as yet little momentum among the legislature to repeal the program.

Instead, drivers should educate themselves about the risks of driving while intoxicated, or of not driving with the proper insurance. While programs are in place for those in the lowest income brackets, the penalties are still predominantly the same for most offenders and can be extremely debilitating for a middle-class driver's finances.

The fines for driving without insurance are $250 per year for three years, without a license $100 per year for three years, and with an invalid license the surcharge is also $250 per year. Motorists who receive six points in violations over a three year period also must pay $100, with an additional $25 for each two points after that.