The goal was to make Texans better drivers.
So, state lawmakers created a program so that those who regularly break the state's road laws accumulate points per violation and pay extra fines to help Texas roads and trauma centers.
But some say the program, called the Driver Responsibility Act, is putting a financial hardship on many drivers, forcing hundreds of thousands of Texans off the roads — or to drive illegally — because they lost their driver's licenses after they couldn't pay the multiyear surcharges.
"A reasonable idea gone bad," Texan Martha Trammell wrote on an online petition calling for the program to end. "People who are trying to get their lives back on track must have some workable avenue to make restitution. This debacle must be overhauled."
Trammell and thousands of drivers are asking state lawmakers to end the seven-year program.
More than 5 million Texans have been hit by about $1.8 billion in surcharges. But only about $700 million of that has been paid, state records show.
As a result, more than 1.2 million Texas drivers have lost their licenses because they didn't pay, records from the Texas Department of Public Safety show.
State Rep. Vicki Truitt, R-Keller, said the program has drastically improved the availability of trauma care in hospitals statewide.
"This fund helps to pay for the services provided to those patients whose bills would otherwise go unpaid or for which the public would be ultimately responsible for picking up the tab for their care," she said. "I think it has resulted in some good things happening, but we must be reasonable about its administration.
"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."
State Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, is among those calling for an end to the program.
"The (program) is yet another example of the state of Texas balancing its budget on the backs of those who can least afford it," he said. "To assess an additional penalty on top of the fine for the actual violation is unfair and onerous.
"The law should be repealed."
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