Drivers will have to jump through numerous hoops before they can get back licenses suspended because of unpaid driver responsibility fees.
The fees will be eliminated and the debt forgiven on Oct. 1 for nearly 350,000 people who owe $637 million. Drivers who had their licenses suspended because of those unpaid fees — about 300,000 of the nearly 350,000 people, according to the secretary of state — will be able to get their licenses reinstated after Oct. 1. A $125 fee will even be waived if the driver gets the license reinstated by Dec. 31.
But for those whose licenses have been suspended for four or more years, that reinstatement will have to include successfully completing both written and road driving tests, as well as a requirement to show pieces of identification revealing the driver has a social security number and is a resident of Michigan.
And there will be costs associated with those extra hoops. If the driver passes the written test, he or she will have to practice driving and then take the road-skills test, which is provided by a third-party tester, said Fred Woodhams, spokesman for the Secretary of State's office. Tester fees generally cost about $50 per driver. There also will be a $25 fee that the driver will have to pay the Secretary of State to get a temporary driving permit until a driver's license arrives in the mail.
The Michigan Department of Treasury has updated its website to flesh out how the elimination of driver responsibility fees on Oct. 1 will work for the drivers who still owe the fees. The information comes after Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation last week to eliminate the fees and forgive the outstanding debt.
Things you need to know:
- If a driver entered into a voluntary payment plan before Feb. 1 to pay off the driver responsibility fees, the balance of the debt will be waived and nothing more will be owed after March 30. These drivers will be eligible to apply to have their driver's license reinstated immediately and the fee will be waived.
- Drivers who are having their wages garnished by the Treasury Department to pay off driver responsibility fees are not considered to be in a “voluntary payment plan” and their wages will continue to be garnished until Sept. 30.
- The Treasury Department will stop collecting driver responsibility fees on Sept. 30, but until that time, drivers who are not on a voluntary payment plan are still responsible for fees owed.
- Beginning on March 30, a person with driver responsibility fee debt may enter a work force training program as an alternative to paying the fees, but drivers’ licenses can’t be reinstated until the training is completed.
- Any other driving violation fees, such as failure to appear in court on a traffic violation or driving on a suspended license must be paid before a license can be reinstated.
- If a driver's license has been suspended for four or more years, the driver must successfully complete a written test at the Secretary of State's office and a road skills driving test that is administered by a third party and costs roughly $50.
- The Secretary of State has set up a help line — 888-767-6424 — and will provide information on the state's website — www.michigan.gov/sos — to help drivers figure out how to get their drivers' licenses reinstated.
- The Treasury Department has a help line — 517-636-5240 — and a website to help drivers learn about the driver responsibility fees - http://www.michigan.gov/driverresponsibility.
Driver responsibility fees, ranging from $100 to $2,000, were passed in 2003 to help fill a budget hole when Michigan’s economy faltered. And the money raised — between $99 million and $115 million a year — did help the state’s general fund. The fees were charged on top of tickets issued to drivers for everything from multiple speeding tickets to drunken driving.
The Legislature unanimously passed bills earlier this year that will speed up the elimination of the fees from Oct. 1, 2019, to Oct. 1 of this year.
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