The City of Dallas may have done something that will increase the number of uninsured drivers in all of North Texas.
First a bit of background:
The City of Dallas just authorized a 7-year contract for the management of its red light camera program. In Texas, violations recorded by camera are a civil violation.
(Interestingly, Dallas did this in the face of strong opposition in the Texas State Senate. Senate bills SB 87 and SB 88 both work to weaken or eliminate red light camera programs statewide. Both bills have passed the Senate and are now awaiting action in the Texas House.)
In order to collect on the violations, Dallas has relied on two things to encourage the owner of the violating vehicle to pay the fine.
- As a civil fine, the city can report unpaid fines as an unpaid bill to credit reporting agencies. But in 2016, the credit reporting agencies announced they will refuse to accept unpaid violations for reporting.
- It can place a hold on vehicle registrations through the county tax office. Dallas is one of a handful of cities in Texas where the city can put a hold on vehicle registration for unpaid violations because its program was in place before legislation was enacted in 2007 to limit the practice. And they are threatening to do just that.
So how does all this increase the likelihood of drivers not getting insured?
In a recent Public Safety Commission hearing, Councilmember Philip Kingston called red-light cameras “ruinous to poor people.” Fines are generally $75, and can only be disputed through an administrative hearing. The burden on poorer working people is probably unreasonable. $75 is probably close to the daily wage of people making as much as $12 or $13 per hour.
The choice these folks have is to pay the ticket, effectively negating their pay for a day, or spend a day in the hopes of getting it dropped. In either case they forego a day’s wages. Given the tight budget a family has whose primary breadwinner is in the $75 per day range, the only other option is to not pay the fine.
Now the city will hold a registration for unpaid fines.
By the time it gets to this stage, the fines have probably tripled, or more. The easiest thing to do is to not register the vehicle.
Without a vehicle registration, no liability insurance. So more people without insurance.
The saddest thing about the City Council vote was the motivation of the four black City Council members, who represent some of the poorer neighborhoods in the city.
But the four black council members — Erik Wilson, Casey Thomas, Carolyn King Arnold and Tiffinni Young — all voted against the deal after several expressed concerns that the city was slipping in its push for minority participation.
The council member from the wealthier area of the city, Philip Kingston, was the one looking out for the interests of Dallas’ poorer residents.