Driver Responsibility: The Off Ramp is Near

Bipartisan bills will repeal the state's driver responsibility fees
Thursday, February 15, 2018

Recently, the Michigan House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation to end driver responsibility fees. For years, I have heard complaints about driver responsibility fees and received numerous pleas to get rid of them. During my tenure in the Legislature, I have advocated intensely to rid drivers of this insidious, excessively punitive and oppressive law.

Enacted in October 2003, the law was created to deter dangerous driving behavior. However, it was so convoluted drivers found it difficult to understand and comply. Driver responsibility fee assessments included reckless driving to accumulating too many driver record points, even for minor infractions, or failing to have proof of insurance in the vehicle Depending on the category of the offense, drivers were racking up points with fees ranging from $100 to $2,000. Trapped in a two-year cycle, drivers felt like they were stuck in a double jeopardy pothole; trapped in a repetitive cycle with no off-ramp.

However, my colleagues and I saw this law as a deceptive attempt to balance the state budget on the backs of low and middle-income drivers. I’m happy that we finally corrected that error and provided relief to many drivers.

I worked hard on this legislation and am proud to have played a role in moving it forward. My bill added a plan to allow individuals, without the means to pay, to complete community service instead of paying the fee. However, in a compromise for these bills to move to the governor’s desk faster, and to speed up the elimination of driver responsibility fees to October 2018 (as opposed to the six-year phase out the Senate proposed) my bill (HB 5042) was sacrificed. Nevertheless, I still look at this as a great achievement. I know this legislation will have a tremendous effect on the quality of life for many Michiganders and this will be one of the most impactful accomplishments of my career in the Michigan House of Representatives.