People can get back behind the wheel legallyIn Minnesota, there are more than 500,000 people driving without a valid license.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
In Minnesota, there are more than 500,000 people driving without a valid license.
But a new program rolling out today in Goodhue County will help change that by allowing people with suspended or revoked driver’s licenses to get back behind the wheel — on a few conditions.
“The Driver Diversion Program fills a void that badly needs to be dealt with,” Red Wing Police Chief Tim Sletten said.
Under DDP, those with suspended or revoked licenses will be able to take a class and set up a payment plan to pay their fines and fees. The key is that participants will be issued a valid driver’s license while they’re working to pay those fees.
“It breaks the cycle of repeat offenders who may owe thousands of dollars because they keep driving without a valid license, many times simply to get to work,” president of Diversion Solutions Scott Adkisson, who helped design and implement the program, said in a statement.
The problem, Adkisson said, is that many people with suspended or revoked licenses have low incomes and can’t afford to pay their fines. As a result, they continue driving without a license — and rack up more fines.
To be eligible for the program, participants must be approved by a prosecuting attorney, attend training, acquire and maintain insurance and not have any major violations while in the program. DDP is designed to be completed in 18 months.
Goodhue County’s diversion program is an expansion of a pilot program that began in 2009, Sletten said. In the first phase, Adkisson helped implement the program in five Minnesota cities, including Duluth and Inver Grove Heights.
Since then, nearly 3,000 people have qualified for the program. Adkisson said that on average each has seven citations and owes $1,700. That is money that would probably never be paid off. But, by having participants set up a payment plan, Adkisson said $1.4 million in fines has been collected.
“We’re excited about that,” he said.
Adkisson added that in those five cities, DDP has a 70 percent retention rate.
In Goodhue County, DDP will operate on a contract through the County Attorney’s Office. The program comes at no cost to either the county or the city of Red Wing.
Beginning at noon today, people issued a driving after suspension or revocation citation also will be handed an orange card with information about the diversion program and how they can enroll. The program is not mandatory, but if people qualify, the cost to participate is $350.
“I have so many clients that could use this program,” attorney and City Council member Lisa Bayley said after a brief presentation on the program at Monday’s meeting. “I just think this is fantastic.”