A surcharge levied on certain traffic violations goes to help people who have suffered nervous-system injuries
I recently was ticketed for a traffic infraction, which I appealed by writing a letter to District Court. The original assessment for the infraction was about $100. Apparently the court half agreed with me by lowering the payment to $60. But then it also assessed me a fee of $7 for driver's education, an administrative fee of $40 and a "neurotrauma surcharge" of $10. That raised everything again to $117.
Deposits made into the Neurotrauma Special Fund:
|July 2003-June 2004
|July 2004-June 2005
|July 2005-June 2006
|July 2006-June 2007
|July 2007-June 2008
Current balance after payroll - mainly to staff the Help Line - and other expenses are deducted
Source: Department of Health, Developmental Disabilities Division
What in the world is a "neurotrauma surcharge"? Who was traumatized? The policeman who caught me? The clerk who read my letter? And what was the administrative fee for? For reading my letter? For sending me a rejection form?
It seems even our District Courts have funny little "fine print" you should read.
Answer: The neurotrauma surcharge is levied on traffic violations such as speeding, driving under the influence, not wearing seat belts and leaving the scene of an accident.
The surcharge goes into a special fund to help people who have suffered significant injury to the central nervous system, such as traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury.
Administrative fees vary according to the violation. There are more than 1,000 possible types of parking and traffic infractions and at least four different types of monetary assessments associated with those infractions, notes Marsha Kitagawa, spokeswoman for the state Judiciary.
She explained that administrative and other fees and surcharges collected by the Judiciary for parking and traffic infractions are deposited into five different funds: the state's General Fund; the Judiciary's Computer System Special Fund and Driver Education Training Fund; the Department of Health's Neurotrauma Fund; and the state Department of Transportation's Highways Special Fund.
The fees vary widely depending on the violation. For example, for parking illegally in a disabled parking space, the total assessment is $260 - a minimum $250 fine, plus a $5 administrative fee for a parking violation for the general fund and $5 for the computer fund.
For a speeding violation in which you drive 11 mph over the speed limit, the assessment is $112, which includes a $20 administrative fee for a moving violation, $20 for the computer fund, $10 for the neurotrauma fund and $7 for driver's education.
We surmise your violation was either related to seat belts/child restraint seats, or speeding more than 10 miles over the maximum speed limit, which result in $10 neurotrauma surcharges.
The neurotrauma surcharges range from $10 to $500, with the maximum amount levied on violators who do not stop when involved in accidents resulting in death or serious bodily injury. Someone driving under the influence of an intoxicant, by comparison, faces a $25 neurotrauma surcharge.
It's notable that the surcharges are placed on traffic offenses, because motor vehicle accidents are the No. 2 leading cause of traumatic brain injury in Hawaii, as well as nationwide, said Aaron Arakaki, public health supervisor of the state Department of Health's Developmental Disabilities Services Branch.
Traffic accidents used to be the No. 1 cause, but was surpassed in the past three or four years by falls, mainly involving the elderly, he said.
When the 2002 state Legislature created the neurotrauma special fund, it also mandated the Department of Health to "develop, lead, administer, coordinate, monitor, evaluate, and set direction for a comprehensive system to support and provide services for survivors of neurotrauma injuries."
Since the first deposits were made in January 2003, a total of $3,732,482, to date, has gone into the fund, according to Dr. David Fray, chief of the Health Department's Developmental Disabilities Division, which oversees the fund.
The current balance, as of last month, was $2,367,767.
Over the past six years, among other things, the special fund has been used to provide education on neurotrauma and outreach programs; assist survivors and their families in identifying and obtaining access to services; set up two advisory boards; obtain matching federal grants; and set up a voluntary registry, currently with about 150 names.
Notable is the Help Line - 453-6151 - that neurotrauma survivors can call to get information on how to get benefits in such areas as housing, Social Security, employment, Medicare, etc., Arakaki said.
Meanwhile, neurotrauma survivors will be able to tap into a major benefit beginning next February.
While the Developmental Disabilities Division has been able to set up a comprehensive system to support and provide services for neurotrauma survivors, the law "says specifically we cannot spend this money on any direct services," Fray pointed out. That fact has made "it very challenging."
However, over the past three years, the Health Department has worked with the state Department of Human Services to come up with a "neurotrauma benefit" that will become available in the Medicaid state plan beginning February, he said.
So, although the neurotrauma special fund cannot pay for direct services, the state's QUEST Expanded Access plan will provide survivors with "access to all medically necessary primary, acute and long-term care services."
Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered. E-mail to email@example.com
. See also: Useful phone numbers