Better keep that driver’s insurance handy…

Here’s a nifty little tidbit to know while driving in Texas. You might want keep your insurance card on you at all times and keep it current.
Back in late 2003, the legislature passed a little known law called the Driver Responsibility Program (see Chapter 708 of the Transportation Code). The idea, as presented to the voters, was that it would set up a points program. Get enough points on your license, and pay additional fees. It was also supposed to fine people who committed certain violations, such as DWI or uninsured motorists. Sounds great, right?
Well, except on that one day you get pulled over and for whatever reason you left your wallet at home. You have no driver’s license and no proof of insurance. You’ve always had both, and you had never gone a day without insurance. You moved recently too, and you haven’t updated your driver’s license.
The cop, for whatever reason, decides he’s not feeling very generous today and writes you tickets for both no license and no insurance. Okay, you think, you get your stuff, take it down to the courthouse and pay a small fine once you show that you do indeed have a license and proof of insurance. No big deal.
Oh, but wait, here’s the fun part that they probably don’t tell you. Because you were given tickets for no license and no insurance, you qualify under the new law. For the next three years, the state is going to charge you additional fees for each violation: $100 for no license, and $250 for no insurance.
Oh, but I’m not an uninsured driver, you say? You’ll appeal it, right? Nope. There is nothing in the law that allows honest drivers the means to avoid paying the fines if they can provide adequate evidence that they have a valid license and/or insurance during the course of those three years.
But, wait! There’s more! Remember that you moved recently right? Well the state is required by law to provide you with written notice about these fines. You didn’t change your address yet, so you never receive the notice. Excellent! The state, seeing that you haven’t made any effort to pay the fines in 30 days, which is the law, automatically suspends your license. The suspension isn’t removed until you begin to make the payment(s) to the state. I say payments because the state has been kind enough to provide in the law a monthly payment plan.
If you’re lucky, you’ll find out about the suspension by trying to renew the license, and not by getting pulled over again. Why? Well, driving with a suspended license opens up a whole new line of opportunities for the state to nail you.
No, I didn’t get burned by this, but I know someone who has. I can understand the intent of the law, but the fact that it allows no provisions to prevent honest citizens from being nailed by the surcharges is completely asinine. The way the law appears on the book assumes everyone is a criminal.
This ties well in with the new laws being pushed for red-light cameras and speeding cameras. It provides the government more ways to treat all citizens as criminals without any type of “due process.”
Oh, no big deal, you may be thinking. It usually just consists of fines, anyway.
Really? You don’t think a local government won’t “tweak” their traffic signals to shorten the signal length in order to frustrate you to the point that you’ll want to run the red light, cameras or not? And if they get away with speeding cameras, the entire state will be like New Mexico where the speed limit is 35 everywhere.
Still not enough? Okay, how about this? At the end of this legislative session, the Texas government added tougher penalties to these laws. One strike and you’re out. Automatic three-day jail sentence. And, to top it off, the cities create task forces with the sole purpose to haul your criminal lead-footed-red-light-running-left-your-insurance-at-home ass to jail!
How do ya like them apples?