DWI Surcharge Not Working, Admit Texas Lawmakers

Posted on Apr 15, 2013

Back in 2003, Texas lawmakers passed the Driver Responsibility Law as a way of controlling the number of drunk driving accidents in the state. They added a surcharge to DWI punishments in Texas, forcing those convicted to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 every year for three years. The lawmakers wanted to use some of that money to help pay for state highways and hospital trauma care.

Unfortunately, 10 years later, it doesn't look as if the law is working.

The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition conducted a study that found the percentage of deadly DWI crashes from 2003 to 2011 actually went up from 26 percent to 34 percent. And the extra money people are being forced to pay? The Dallas News reports that 60 percent of people who owe surcharges are unable or unwilling to pay the $1.7 billion they owe the state of Texas. This means that in the end, highways and hospitals barely received any money from the new law.

"I can guarantee like at least 20 cars running down the street right now drinking, DWI, but no one is going to do anything about it until somebody actually gets into a wreck or dies," said west El Pasoan Oscar Polando.

Lawmakers are admitting that the Driving Responsibility Law is not working, but they also are not sure of a good alternative yet.

"They can't just let people walk away. If they can't pay, there has to be another way to make these people pay for what they've done," said Fort Bliss military officer, Vincent Pizzi.

Some critics are saying that the state should increase alcohol and tobacco taxes to make up for the loss.

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