The practice of suspending a person’s driver’s license because they’re unable to pay their traffic tickets is over. The New York Driver’s License Suspension Reform Act went into effect at the start of July 2021.
More about the legislation
The coalition Driven by Justice has been a loud vocal supporter of this legislation. According to data the organization compiled, there were almost 1.7 million cases of suspended licenses due to unpaid tickets between January of 2016 and April of 2018.
A driver may have their license suspended for a variety of reasons, but by the rules of New York’s Department of Motor Vehicles, it all comes down to points. Each time a driver commits a traffic violation, it adds points to their driving record. Different types of activities are worth a different amount of points based on their severity. The DMV looks 18 months back on an individual’s record, and if there are 11 points total within that time frame, their license is suspended.
In the past, this point system wasn’t followed if the person had unpaid traffic tickets. Even though the violation of parking illegally or driving a car that isn’t properly registered doesn’t equate to any points in the DMV’s books, it’s still something that could have resulted in an immediate license suspension.
License suspension only compounds the problem
Those who are financially unable to pay off their traffic tickets and have their license suspended are often put in a tricky situation. The need to go to work, get children to daycare and go grocery shopping still exists, yet it’s now illegal for them to drive; they’re expected to find another way. In many cases, the individual continues to drive and risks further legal consequences.
License suspension due to traffic debt is a problematic policy that disproportionately impacts those who are already struggling the most. In New York, this vicious cycle has finally been ended with the introduction of new legislation. It’s a step in the right direction toward more equality on the road.