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New Texas Law Eliminates the Driver Responsibility Program, Increases Traffic & DWI Fines

About 1.5 million Texans may now be able to get their driver’s licenses reinstated through a new Texas law that took effect on September 1st.

This law, House Bill (HB) 2048, has repealed the Driver Responsibility Program (DRP), which some have described as a “debtor’s prison.” The new law has also increased fines for certain traffic penalties in an effort to maintain funding for trauma care. 

Unanimously passed by both chambers of the Texas Legislature, HB 2048 has been supported by many, including the Texas Fair Defense Project.

Potential Impacts of Repealing the DRP

Texas’ Driver Responsibility Program was a system for evaluating, issuing, and collecting surcharges for certain traffic offenses.

Based on the offense and the number of points on someone’s driving record, the DRP would issue fines annually, for three years following the date of the offense. It also provided an option for paying the three years of fines upfront.

If DRP fees were not paid within 105 days, a license suspension would take effect.

Many didn’t realize that DRP fees would recur for three years—and far more simply couldn’t afford the steep costs. This resulted in hundreds of thousands of driver’s license suspensions, triggering additional issues, like:

  • More unlicensed and uninsured drivers on Texas roads.
  • Job loss and additional financial problems for those who abided by the suspension and relied on driving to commute to work.

However, with the DRP repealed as of Sept. 1, about:

  • 635,000 driver’s license suspensions will be lifted automatically: This is the result of outstanding fines being erased with the closure of the DRP.
  • 748,190 drivers will be eligible to reinstate their driver’s licenses: These individuals will have to either pay a reinstatement fee or resolve an issue unrelated to the DRP, like a failure to appear in court.1

Additional Provisions of the New Texas Law: Raising Traffic Fines to Fund Trauma Care

As problematic as critics found the DRP to be, it did provide critical funding to trauma care in the state. To ensure this funding would not be lost, the new Texas law increased the fines for all:

  • Traffic offenses: The fines for any traffic offense have been raised $20.
  • Driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses: The new DWI fines in Texas are based on an individual’s blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of the offense and whether (s)he has priors. As of Sept. 1, new DWI fines in Texas will be:
    • $3,000 for a 1st DWI
    • $4,500 for a 2nd DWI (within a 36-month period)
    • $6,000 for a DWI with a BAC greater than 0.15

Additionally, HB 2048 has added $2 to auto insurance costs in the state. This funding source for state trauma care has been praised for creating a mechanism that will automatically increase funding as the state’s population grows and more drivers get auto insurance.

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1: According to these findings