Reversing two decades of policy, California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a law to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses to drive vehicles legally in the state. While there are critics of the new law, safety advocates argue the decision will significantly reduce the number of uninsured motorist accidents on California roads.
Any personal injury attorney in Orange County knows that an unlicensed driver can be a dangerous driver. Not only have unlicensed drivers not passed written tests or other driving tests before getting a license, but they are also unable to obtain auto insurance and may be more likely to hit-and-run, especially if they are afraid of being deported if police come to an accident scene. By allowing for undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses, these risks can be reduced and the roads should be safer.
Drivers Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants Could Save Lives
Although there are 24 million licensed drivers in California, there are also approximately 2 million motorists who drive regularly and who do not have a license. As many as 1.4 million of the unlicensed drivers are undocumented immigrants, according to CBS. If these undocumented drivers choose to take advantage of the newly granted right to secure a license, this could cut the number of unlicensed motorists in half.
Unlicensed motorists are more likely to get into an accident, with the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reporting that 18.2 percent of all accidents in the U.S. from 2007 to 2009 involved an unlicensed driver. In total 21,049 people died in these accidents.
Drivers without a license are more likely to crash because they haven’t undergone testing or received required education to ensure they can operate their vehicles safely. They also may be wary of police and afraid of detection, which means they may be more likely to be watching out for law enforcement rather than focusing on the road.
By significantly reducing the number of unlicensed drivers, these risks can be reduced. Many other states have already recognized the safety benefits of granting licenses to undocumented immigrants, and seven out of the eleven states that allow undocumented immigrants to get a license just instituted this rule within the past year.
Once a previously unlicensed driver secures a license, he or she can also get auto insurance. Currently, California has a big problem with uninsured drivers on the roads, in large part because of the millions of unlicensed motorists. In 2009 alone, $634 million in uninsured motorist accident claims were paid out in California, according to Think Progress. If undocumented immigrants can get licenses and get insurance, accident victims involved in crashes with these drivers will no longer be forced to turn to their uninsured motorist coverage to pay for losses.
Finally, allowing for licensing (and removing the fear that an accident will lead to deportation) could also help to bring down the number of hit-and-runs since terrified drivers won’t feel so much pressure to flee. In 2010, 147 motorists were killed in a total of 14,735 hit-and-runs, so reducing this number is also an important public policy goal.
If you have been injured in a car crash, a personal injury attorney in Orange County can help. Contact the Law Offices of John Rapillo. Call 800-814-4771.