Goodhue County welcomes new drivers program
RED WING — Starting Wednesday at noon, Goodhue County will join a growing list of communities taking part in a pilot program designed to get people with suspended or revoked licenses back on the road safely and legally.
The Driving Diversion Program (DDP) has been wildly successful since being approved by the state Legislature in 2009, and developer Scott Adkisson says the first-of-its-kind pilot program has drawn interest from as far away as California and New Hampshire. Adkisson had targeted a 15 percent success rate when it began, but nearly 70 percent of his 2,960 participants to date have either graduated or are on track to do so.
"And here's the good part: It doesn't cost the city anything; it doesn't cost the county anything," Adkisson said.
The program was approved in 2009 for trial in five metro communities. The expansion will include an additional 12 cities and five counties. It could be approved as a statewide program as soon as 2013, which Adkisson says could raise $30 million through fine collection; it's already helped secure $1.4 million to date.
The premise of DDP is fairly simple. With about 500,000 Minnesota drivers currently without a valid driver's license or insurance, about a third of those continue to operate a vehicle illegally. For a fee of $350, individuals can enroll in an 18-month training class through DDP that allows them to continue driving — often to work — while completing the state requirements to be re-licensed.
The program has minimum requirements that must be met to be eligible and remain in good standing — which typically includes setting up a payment plan for fines — while blocking enrollment from those who have been charged with crimes such as criminal vehicular operation, fleeing an officer, or theft of a motor vehicle.
The average DDP participant has seven citations with an average balance of $1,700 in fines and fees. That represents a clear need for the program, Adkisson said. Red Wing police chief Tim Sletten and city council member Lisa Bayley concurred Monday evening.
"I have so many clients who can use this program," said Bayley, a Red Wing attorney. "It's a huge issue. I think it's fantastic."
Added Sletten: "DDP fills a void that badly needs to be dealt with."