More than a thousand Vermonters who hoped to get their driving privileges restored turned out Friday at a courthouse in Burlington.
People began lining up in the early morning dark – long before courthouse doors opened. By midday, the line snaked around a city block as hundreds waited in a biting wind for a chance to drive legally again.
Robert Robbins from Burlington hoped to pay off 15 tickets at $20 dollars apiece, instead of the $4,500 he owed for multiple offenses for driving with a suspended license. Tickets, he says, he couldn't afford to pay off.
"I was young, I was in my early 20s and I didn't have the money to pay rent and take care of the three or four tickets that I originally had, for like 1,200 bucks. And it just kept rolling up and rolling up. Every time I'd get one or two tickets a year from going to work,” he says.
Joline Cosman of Winooski was in line with her son, who was hoping to pay off several tickets.
“'I think it's an excellent program, excellent program,” Cosman says. “They're going to make a lot of money today, money they wouldn't have had otherwise, first of all. And a lot of people are going to be able to drive legally, which is great."
Her son, Noah Haskins, says he’s lost his license three times. “And I’ve actually been struggling a lot because I haven’t had my license,” he says. “So this will put my foot in the right direction, and put me back on my feet.”
Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan says the one-day amnesty program was a success.
"It's not excusing or condoning any poor choices they made, it's acknowledging the situation they're in,” he says. “It really impacts the rest of us because we all drive on our roadways. And we want people licensed, we want them insured."
The pilot program allowed drivers in five Vermont counties who lost their licenses due to unpaid traffic fines to pay much lower fines. Gov. Peter Shumlin has said if the pilot effort was successful, he'd like to see it expanded statewide.