NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – No one likes to get a traffic ticket, much less spend any time or money taking care of it. That’s why there are new businesses popping up around the country that say they’ll handle everything for you, if you’re a member of their club and pay an annual fee.
Regulators say these companies are selling memberships and advertising like insurance companies, but not following insurance laws. But one local business owner tells us, these clubs are all about convenience and not insurance.
Billy McFarland has been teaching defensive driving with the comedy guys for years.
“I’d say 85% of my classes are speeders,” McFarland told us. “The rest mingle between running stop signs and stop lights and the occasional car accident.”
McFarland has also had his fair share of tickets.
“I got a speeding ticket last week in Arkansas,” he admitted.
The defensive driving teacher knows most students would welcome a faster and easier way of taking care of things. But while the idea of ticket insurance sounds tempting, McFarland is skeptical.
“How do you regulate it,” McFarland questioned.
Troy Simpson is a former police officer who created TraffiCare International back in 2007.
“I would not say this is traffic ticket insurance,” Simpson said. “I would say this is traffic ticket assurance.”
Members of TraffiCare International pay $185 to get reimbursed for up to three traffic tickets a year, no matter what the cost. The company won’t cover DWI or reckless violations. They also won’t fight the ticket in court or keep points off your driving record. But they will pay part of your legal fees if you choose to take that route.
“I think the key word is the reimbursement. If you reimburse people for your legal fees, then you’re a motor club. If you pay the ticket, then you’re an insurance company,” Simpson explained.
Simpson is careful to call TraffiCare International a motor club after he was banned from doing business in Nevada, Florida, and New Mexico. None of those states had unhappy customers or complaints on file against the company. Instead, regulators filed cease and desist orders proactively.
“This is from the Texas Department of Insurance. It says you’re not supposed to be doing business in Texas. So, why are you still taking people’s money,” Investigative Reporter Mireya Villarreal asked Simpson.
“Well, what we’re doing is… This was a settlement we reached with, I don’t know if this is the first document or the second document that you have here, but we reached an agreement to pay a settlement fee,” Simpson answered.
In 2011, Simpson also agreed to pay a fine in Texas and stop calling his business ticket insurance. In exchange, he was allowed to stay open as a motor club that offers similar benefits.
“Until somebody comes out and flat out says, this is illegal. You can’t do it. Then we’ll stop. But we look at it differently. We’re helping people,” Simpson noted.
The Department of Insurance tells us they will be keeping a close on the company.