Devil’s Advocate: Giving illegal immigrants licenses will make our roads safer

In Devil's Advocate, Opinion
Courtesy of MCT

Unlicensed drivers are uninsured drivers. They’re also unsafe drivers. Giving illegal immigrants the chance to earn their driver’s license can increase road safety, cut down on the number of hit-and-runs, and allow a higher degree of accountability to these previously illegal drivers.

A study called “Unlicensed to Kill” by the AAA Foundation originally found that between 1993 and 1997, one in five fatal car crashes involved an unlicensed or improperly licensed driver.

The study was updated in 2003 and again in 2008. According to the study, between 2001 and 2005 an average of 8,030 drivers who were definitely or possibly driving with an invalid license or no license were involved in 7,679 fatal crashes, or 19.9 percent of all fatal crashes. This resulted in the deaths of 8,801 people.

That’s 20.5 percent of all deaths occurring in motor vehicle traffic crashes.

Unlicensed drivers also have a high hit-and-run chance as well.  The same study stated that 41.1 percent of all hit-and-run drivers were driving illegally.

When it comes to road safety in relation to this proposed bill, it all comes down to a numbers game: Those who drive without licenses are more prone to getting into accidents, and our sizeable population of illegal citizens are assumed to represent a percentage of those unlicensed drivers.

Simply put, licensing drivers puts them through a number of tests that determine whether they can safely operate a vehicle.

Granted, the above statistics from the “Unlicensed to Kill” study did not make any sort of connection between the number of fatal crashes involving drivers without licensing and their inability to operate a car. The correlation, simply by sheer numbers, has to be there: Both the Pew Hispanic Center and the Department of Homeland Security estimated that about 2.5 million illegal immigrants lived in California in 2009.

It’s safe to assume that a large portion of those illegal immigrants are operating vehicles without a license. A 2010 New York Times article reported that 200,000 illegal immigrants in Georgia are driving to work daily. The statistics from the Department of Homeland Security indicate that California has five times the illegal immigrants than Georgia does.

According to the DMV website, you cannot drive legally without car insurance in California. Thus, if an illegal immigrant obtains their driver’s license lawfully, they will have no choice but to either obtain car insurance or continue to drive unlawfully. Either way, their accountability is increased from being a registered driver in the DMV’s system.

This new bill won’t simply allow anyone to cross our borders and instantly apply for a driver’s license, either. The DHS would “defer immigration enforcement actions against immigrants here illegally for two years if they could establish that they came to the U.S. before age 16, have lived here at least five years, are in school or have graduated from high school,” according to an Aug. 31 article in the Orange County Register.

In other words, these are the very same people that we are already sharing the streets with. We should want them to have the same driver’s training that we have.

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