Mad as hell: The fight to repeal the $3,000 traffic ticket heats up in Texas


I recently wrote about the little-known Driver Responsibility laws, the odious rules that several states use to squeeze cash out of drivers who get traffic tickets. They're explained more fully in my original story on the subject, which you can read here. The gist is that once you pay, say, a speeding ticket, you've essentially pled guilty to it, and then states can legally come at you for all kinds of penalty fees over and above the original ticket. Fees can soar as high as $3,000, and if you don't pay them, you'll be arrested as a criminal if you drive. That's even if you live in a different state from where you got the ticket.

Although the law, which creates a class of debtors, exists in New Jersey, Michigan, and New York as well (Virginia gave up and repealed its law last year), the Texas rebellion has been particularly adamant. Although some 1.6 million Texas have been assessed with the fine, 1.1 million of them haven't paid it, many because they can't afford to, proving the laws don't work in getting bad drivers off the road. Some $900 million in fees haven't been collected. The people most likely not to pay the fines aren't hardened criminals or habitual drunk drivers, but simply people whose licenses were invalid at the time of their ticket.