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In Texas, as in much of the country, the point system was originally conceived as a way of tracking bad drivers in a consistent manner. A set number of "points" were pinned to a driver's record for certain traffic infractions, and those who accumulated too many points were sanctioned accordingly (usually a license suspension).
Then a few years back, it was recognized that this same point system could also be a convenient way to increase income for the states. Some, including Texas, have adopted a system that tracks violations and then applies financial "assessments" on drivers who accumulate a certain number of points. In a nutshell, these drivers must pay a huge additional penalty every year for three years.
Violations that in the past would have merely incurred temporary license suspensions and possibly lead to an increase in insurance rates now also become three-year financial nightmares (and big moneymakers for the states using this method).
In Texas, this program is called the Driver Responsibility Program, or DRP. The good news is that some violations do not incur points. A traffic ticket for traveling less than 10% over the speed limit is not counted, and seat belt violation tickets also do not count (child safety seat violations do, though).
But the bad news is that Texas has a relatively low point count before heavy penalties start kicking in―just six points in three years. And Texas doesn't split hairs when it comes to which offenses result in how many points; it's cut-and-dried:
- One moving violation is two points.
- A moving violation resulting in an accident is three points.
Besides the whopping dent in your pocketbook under the DRP program, four moving violations in 12 months or seven moving violations in 24 months will also get your license suspended. The more egregious violations do not accumulate points, but that's not necessarily good news―see "Conviction-based Surcharges," below.
In addition to having your license suspended for habitual traffic citations, you risk paying increasingly heavy fines on an annual, repeating basis by accumulating points. So drive safely and save your hard-earned cash!
There is almost no upper limit to what violations can cost you in fines, and if you choose to defend yourself against the charges, you can be hit with substantial legal fees as well. As a rule of thumb, any serious violation such as a DWI or violations that put you over the point limit will cost you several thousand dollars over three years.
For example, if you have a moving violation, you will have to promptly pay the fine for that ticket, whatever that may be. In many places, that would be the end of it except for lingering damage to your insurance rating and the potential to have your license pulled if the points add up too high.
But if you rack up six points on your license by the end of the year, you then have to also pay a $100 "assessment surcharge." And that amount goes up by $25 for each subsequent point over six. For each year that you have six or more points still on your license, you will have to pay the $100 fee again, along with $25 each for each point above six.
OK, so you blew it, fought it, and lost it. Time to pay the fine and move on, right? Wrong. For criminal traffic offenses, Texas applies what it calls "Conviction-Based Surcharges" that essentially let the state fine you annually for the same offense for three years.
This is not part of the point system per se, but a separate system that kicks in on the following group of motley offenses. These conviction surcharges range from what could be considered a minor glitch to the truly serious and dangerous trangressions:
- Driving while intoxicated, intoxication assault, and intoxication manslaughter:
- First-time offense: $1,000
- Second or subsequent offense: $1,500
- DWI with a BAC of 0.16 or higher: $2,000
- Other surchargeable violations:
- Failure to maintain financial responsibility:
- Driving while license invalid: $250
- Driving without a license: $100
Now, note that these surcharges are combinable and payable annually each year for three years. That 0.16 or greater BAC reading will cost you $6,000―in addition to the initial fine, court costs, and other fees.
So be careful on Texas roads―and remember that paying your traffic ticket may only be the beginning of how much that violation may cost you in the long run.
Whether it's simply an irony or worse, adding insult to injury, Texas does at least offer you the convenience of paying your Driver Responsibility Program surcharges online.
If you need or want to check the status of your driver’s license, you might want to order a driving record report. This record will spell out if your driver’s license is currently valid. Should your license have been revoked or suspended, the report will indicate that according to what’s on record at the DPS. This report will also show points against your license and, in some cases, information on any accidents you have had.