LANSING—Michigan’s driver responsibility program would be scaled back under legislation approved by the state Senate last week, said Sen. John Proos. Senate Bill 166 eliminates many of the lower level offenses that trigger a fine under current law, but does, however, retain penalties for the most egregious traffic violations.
“Michigan’s driver responsibility fee program is an unfair system that makes it difficult for many residents to own and operate a vehicle and get to work in our state”, said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “It levies additional, over-the-top fees for violations that are already penalized. In many cases, individuals who have made a mistake are finding it impossible to work and to earn the money to pay the fee. This program was enacted in 2003 to help close budget holes and it must be eliminated.”
SB 166 retains fines for the most serious driving violations, including operating while intoxicated, hit and run accidents, fleeing and eluding police, and reckless driving. The reforms passed by the Senate eliminate fines assessed for people accruing seven or more points on their driving record, driving without insurance or without proof of insurance, and driving without a license.
The driver responsibility fee program became law in 2003 in order to generate revenue for the state’s budget deficit. It assesses an additional administrative fee, from $150 to $1,000 for two years, to drivers that violate certain parts of the traffic code or receive a certain number of points on their driving records, even after they have paid any fines and penalties handed down by a judge.
Additionally, a driver’s license is suspended if the fee is not paid in a timely fashion. Others must pay an additional $125 to have the license reinstated. From 2004 to 2010 the program issued more than $1.2 billion in assessments but only collected $720 million – a return of only 60 percent. The program has resulted in nearly 2.5 million license suspensions since its enactment.
SB 166 advanced to the state House of Representatives for consideration.