Vermont is tossing a lifeline to drivers with suspended driver's licenses and not enough money to pay their way out of it.
The state is offering a pilot program that would allow drivers from a select number of counties to pay off their delinquent traffic tickets at $20 each and get their licenses back.
State officials say there are about 113,000 unpaid tickets that qualify for the program, allowing many low-income drivers to get back on the road.
"The idea is we have over 20,000 Vermonters who have suspended licenses and many of them are suspended because they can't afford to pay the mounting fines," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.
The news station WCAX in Vermont talked to one driver who has been unable to drive her entire life because a fine she got as a teenager.
"I lost my license when I was just 13 for a tobacco fine," said Helana Martin of Cambridge.
"I kind of feel stuck," she added. "I have no way to get to work, so therefore I haven't been able to try and look for work."
For Vermont, the amnesty program will have more than one benefit. It will infuse a bit of revenue for tickets that otherwise may never have been paid, and create an economic boost in the form of more drivers able to travel and work freely.
"They end up in a vicious cycle," Shumlin said, "where they are unable to get to work, to support their family, to pay off the fines, to put food on the table. It's really hurting low-income Vermonters."
The program will also prevent these cases from getting any further up the criminal justice ladder. As the Burlington Free Press notes, many drivers with suspended licenses end up on the road anyway, forced to travel for shopping or work.
"This is in the interest of all Vermonters," said T.J. Donovan, Chittenden County State's Attorney, "because while they're driving our roadways, we know they're driving illegally, but they're also driving without insurance. That puts all of us at risk."
This is not the first time Vermont has rolled out an amnesty program of this kind. In 2011, Rutland offers drivers the chance to pay off their tickets at half price.
Not everyone will be able to take advantage of the Vermont traffic ticket amnesty programs. For now it is only open to drivers from Chittenden, Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille, and Washington counties, but if successful it could be extended further.
[Image via Flickr]