Detroiters hit with driver responsibility fees have a new way to get their drivers licenses back as soon as this month.
The city announced a program Tuesday that allows residents to clear those fees before automatic statewide forgiveness kicks in October 1. The only requirement: residents must complete at least 10 hours of free workforce development training.
The state did away with the highly unpopular fees earlier this year. Around 300,000 people statewide have suspended licenses for failing to pay the fees, which were automatically tacked on to certain traffic offenses.
Those fees could pile up. In Detroit alone, it’s estimated that about 76,000 people owe an average of $1600. That left many low-income mired in debt and unable to drive, further restricting their access to job opportunities.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says the city’s program provides another path to get that license back, and helps Detroiters looking for work hone their job skills.
“We think there’s a lot of people who might want to start driving this summer,” Duggan said. “Whether you want to go to work, whether you want to go to school, whether you want to just participate in the activities in the city.”
The city will coordinate events that count toward the required 10 hours of training, but people can also complete the training online. The program is free.
Detroit resident Derrick Peterson, who attended a job training and education fair at Detroit’s Northwest Activities Center Tuesday, hasn’t had a driver’s license in years because of responsibility fees.
Peterson says that’s severely limited his job opportunities, and landed him in county jails more than once for driving on a suspended license.
“I didn’t understand why I had to pay the extra when I [paid] the tickets, but I can’t get licensed because of the responsibility fees,” he said. “And I have family at home, so I can’t take care of that.”
Peterson said the new program meshes with his efforts to get his life back on track. “I’m happy to know that,” he said.