Law goes into effect forgiving driver responsibility fees

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FLINT (WJRT) - 10/01/2018) - The offices of secretary of state are expecting longer lines beginning today after eliminating driver responsibility fees. This means they will no longer issue new ones or collect on outstanding ones.

"It's going to open up a lot more opportunities that wouldn't have been available to Michigan residents before," said Noah Tolbert of Flint.

Tolbert said he sees coworkers that have struggled due to debt brought on by driver responsibility fees.

Ron Walker of Flint knows that feeling all too well. He has been without a license for seven years and has the DRF program has made it difficult to change that.

"I started making payments on it and then when you can't go to work because you can't have your license it was a no win-win," said Walker.

But Monday he walked out of the Secretary of State office a licensed driver.

“I get to go to work every day,” said Walker. “My truck sitting right there, I got a new Z71 so I'm blessed, god's been good."

According to the Secretary of State more than 300,000 drivers have accrued $570 million in debt. But now the slate has been wiped clean.

"Secretary of State Ruth Johnson called that debt uncollectable,” said Fred Woodhams, the communication director for Secretary of State. “It was typically for low income people they had no chance at paying that money back."

Driver responsibility fees were put into place in 2003. The fees were in addition to tickets from driving infractions and could cost drivers upwards of $1000 a year. And if you couldn't pay your license was suspended.

But now they can now apply for reinstatement beginning Monday and if those drivers apply between now and the end of the year, they won't have to pay the reinstatement fee of $125.

With a likely increase of customers at Secretary of States, you'll also see more workers.

"We've staffed up today, we've added dozens of positions throughout the state including Flint, Saginaw and Bay City area,” said Woodhams. “So those offices will have more staff on hand to address the expected additional customer volume."

Woodhams also said a large number of drivers won't be able to renew their license due to unpaid tickets or other licensing issues, like drunk driving convictions. If you are unsure if you would qualify, you're asked to call Secretary of State at 888-767-6424 before you go.

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