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Lawmaker Wants To End Driver's License Suspensions For Unpaid Traffic Tickets

LOS ANGELES ( — A San Fernando Valley lawmaker wants to keep millions of drivers in Southern California and across the state who have had their licenses suspended for not paying traffic tickets or missing court dates behind the wheel.

State Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) has introduced Senate Bill 405 (PDF) to help drivers with a current suspension for nonviolent offenses such as broken taillights or expired tags to get their driving privileges restored.

According to Hertzberg, the legislation is intended to complement Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed Traffic Amnesty program, which aims to resolve nearly $10 billion in uncollected court-ordered debt.

If passed, SB 405 would restore driver's licenses suspended as a result of nonviolent offenses, upon agreement that court-ordered debt be collected via the governor's proposed Traffic Amnesty program.

State law currently requires those with suspended licenses to pay all unpaid fees, fines, and assessments before driving privileges are restored.

Hertzberg told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO how one state resident who was issued a $25 ticket for failing to notify the DMV of an address change ended up owning $2,900 to the state, due to what Hertzberg called an "almost comical series of errors, address changes and delays".

"The whole fee system is out of whack, and for poor people, you make a choice between feeding your family or paying your rent or paying for a $63 parking ticket that turns out to be $300 in 60 days," he said.

The proposed legislation comes on the heels of a report (PDF) that shows that traffic court fines and penalties have resulted in driver's license suspensions for more than 4 million Californians — or 1 in 6 drivers — which in turn pushes many low-income people deeper into poverty.

Hertzberg said it's not just an economic issue, but one of public safety as well: an estimated 75 percent of people who have had their licenses suspended just keep driving – often without insurance - according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Lawmakers are expected to hold a hearing on SB 405 later this spring.

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