Yes, but not for much longer: the Michigan Driver Responsibility Fee will be phased-out and eliminated by end of 2019
There is still a Michigan Driver Responsibility Fee in Michigan? Yes, but not for much longer.
What is the current Michigan Driver Responsibility Fee?
The Driver Responsibility Fee in MI is for drivers who commit certain driving offenses that lawmakers have deemed unusually dangerous, reckless or deadly to the welfare of the public.
The fee for these drivers is $1,000 per year for two, consecutive years. (MCL 257.732a(2)(a)).
Notably, there are lower Michigan Driver Responsibility Fee amounts for drivers who have committed less serious crimes and traffic law violations.
How is the Michigan Driver Responsibility Fee being phased out and eliminated?
Here’s what the new law (Public Act 250 of 2014, which took effect Sept. 23, 2014) says about the phase-out and elimination of the MI Driver Responsibility Fee for the worst drivers, i.e., those who have committed the crimes I will discuss in the next section:
- For crimes that occur “on or after October 1, 2015, 100% of the fee shall be assessed for the first year and 50% for the second year.”
- For crimes that occur “on or after October 1, 2016, 100% of the fee shall be assessed for the first year and no fee shall be assessed for the second year.”
- For crimes that occur “on or after October 1, 2018, 50% of the fee shall be assessed for the first year and no fee shall be assessed for the second year.”
- For crimes that occur “on or after October 1, 2019, no fee shall be assessed …”
(Source: MCL 257.732a(11)(b))
Who gets the Michigan Driver Responsibility Fee?
The Michigan Driver Responsibility Fee is assessed for drivers who commit the following crimes:
- Negligent homicide.
- A felony resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle, ORV, or snowmobile.
- Killing and/or injuring another person in a work zone or a school bus zone. (MCL 257.601b(2) and (3))
- Killing and/or injuring “a person operating an implement of husbandry on a highway.” (MCL 257.601c(1) and (2))
- Killing and/or causing “serious impairment of a body function” to another person “while operating a vehicle upon a highway or other place open to the general public, including, but not limited to, an area designated for the parking of motor vehicles …” (MCL 257.601d(1) and (2))
- Reckless driving that kills and/or causes “serious impairment of a body function” to another person. (MCL 257.626(3) and (4))
- Violating Michigan’s Move Over Law which results in death and/or injury “to a police officer, firefighter, or other emergency response personnel in the immediate area of the stationary authorized emergency vehicle …” (MCL 257.653a(3) and (4))
- Operating a motor vehicle “while intoxicated” (due to being “under the influence of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, or other intoxicating substance or a combination of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, or other intoxicating substance”) which results in the death and/or “serious impairment of a body function” to another person. (MCL 257.625(1), (4) and (5))
- Failing to stop and disclose identity at the scene of an accident when required by law.
- Fleeing or eluding an officer.
(Source: MCL 257.732a(2)(a)(i through v))
Why, as an auto accident attorney, I supported the Michigan Driver Responsibility?
Under the old Michigan Driver Responsibility Fee law, drivers who killed or injured other drivers or bicyclists or pedestrians or ambulance drivers stopped on the side of road to help car crash victims were assessed a Michigan Driver Responsibility Fee of $1,000 for two consecutive years.
As I explained previously, as a car crash attorney, I have seen far too many times the death and devastation that happens as a result of these driving-related crimes
In my 2014 blog post about how getting rid of the old law was the “dumbest law of 2014,” I said the following about the drivers targeted by the Michigan Driver Responsibility Fee and the reason the fee was necessary and worth keeping:
- “There are some very dangerous drivers on our roads. There are people who have been convicted of drinking and driving — on several occasions. There are drivers who have killed people and who have caused multiple serious car accidents … We all play a form of Russian Roulette whenever we get in our cars and drive with our families, hoping that we don’t encounter these proven dangerous drivers … I regularly see these incredibly unsafe drivers in the cases I handle as an attorney … [Tragically, it] isn’t a question of whether these people are going to hurt someone. It is a question of when.”
- The Driver Responsibility Fee in Michigan serves the important purpose of “punish[ing] those who endanger our families by making incredibly unsafe driving decisions.” It is “a way of holding the most irresponsible and most dangerous drivers accountable for hurting people and for breaking the traffic laws that we depend upon to protect us all.
- The MI Driver Responsibility Fee also has a “deterrent effect.”
The old Michigan Driver Responsibility Fee law had two key benefits. One was a deterrent effect. Aimed at the state’s worst drivers — and here I am talking about the people I’ve seen who have killed and injured my own clients, such as the people who have been convicted over and again of drunk driving – the law was meant to impose an additional deterrent to stop these people from intentionally risking the safety of our families on the road.
The Driver Responsibility Fee also had a significant financial benefit.
Specifically, it has raised about $100 million in annual revenue. This is revenue that can be used for projects to make Michiganders’ lives safer and better, like fixing our atrocious, pothole-ridden roads and crumbling infrastructure that puts Michigan at a competitive economic disadvantage to other states.
I’ll also be the first to say there were problems with the Driver Responsibility Fee in Michigan. It seems to have sometimes been misapplied to people who it was never intended or created to apply to.
But I continue to believe that the people of this state were safer and better served under this law than we will shortly be without it.