SINCE 2014, 15 states and the District of Columbia have offered driver’s licenses to those in the country illegally. Three states, Washington, New Mexico, and Utah offered licenses in 1993, 2003, and 2005, respectively. Massachusetts and Rhode Island will begin issuing licenses on July 1, 2023.
The primary reason offered by proponents has been that licensing will make the roads safer. They claim common sense and logic as proof. Unfortunately, facts tell a completely different story. In every state and the District of Columbia in the first two or three years after licensing, traffic fatalities have exploded.
I began studying this issue over a decade ago when my son was killed by an unlicensed driver in San Francisco. My research focused on license status regardless of immigration status. However, 11 months after my son was killed, I learned that the driver was in the country illegally.
As only three states at the time had issued licenses to those in the country illegally, numbers were hard to come by. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety had issued two studies showing that unlicensed drivers were responsible for over 7,500 fatalities annually. At the time, that was over 20 percent of all fatalities caused by less than 4 percent of all drivers.
But since the “craze” to issue licenses began in 2014, the numbers have become very clear. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, fatalities in California, Maryland, and Nevada were up 25, 26, and 26 percent, respectively, over three years. Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, and Illinois were up 25, 23, 25, and 17 percent, respectively, over two years.
Advocates claim that fatalities increase because there are more drivers. Again, the facts don’t justify the claim. In the 10 years prior to 2014, when the licensing craze began, traffic fatalities decreased by 24.7 percent despite an increase in the number of drivers by 8 percent. Fatalities decreased from 43,510 in 2005 to 32,714 in 2014.
I have repeatedly asked advocates in many of these states to provide me with any report showing that licensing makes for safer drivers. I’ve never received one.
In 2013 I testified against licensing for those in the country illegally in California. I wanted to know why these people as a group were such bad drivers. I found data collected by the World Health Organization on Mexico, Central American countries, and some South American countries, as these were where most of the new drivers were from. I found that every country had laws almost identical to those in the United States, yet the enforcement was horribly lacking (unless you were a tourist).
A report issued by the California DMV in 2012 covered 25 years of driving statistics for those in the country illegally. Proponents claimed the report said licensing drivers would make them safer. I asked Robert Hagge, head of the DMV research group that produced the report, if that was true. His response was, “No, I do not agree with this interpretation. There is nothing in our report that would indicate, one way or the other, whether licensing existing unlicensed drivers would make them safer drivers.” The conclusion of the report was to continue impounding the cars of unlicensed drivers.
As we now know, the 5,016 additional deaths (through 2021) over the base year prior to licensing proves the advocates’ “dead” wrong.
Another claim made by licensing advocates is that hit-and-runs will decrease as these drivers will not be afraid of being deported for driving without a license. Aside from the fact that these drivers, when caught, haven’t been getting deported for over a decade, hit-and-runs in California increased by 26 percent in the first two years licenses were offered.
Massachusetts advocates have claimed that Connecticut licensing has reduced fatalities (already disproven), and hit-and-runs have declined. Fran Mayko of AAA Northeast said the following in 2018, “Hit-and-run crashes in the US are trending in the wrong direction, especially in Connecticut.”
The evidence is overwhelming. Licensing will increase fatalities and increase hit-and-runs. The solution for safer roads is simple. Enforce and strengthen Massachusetts driving laws and vote No on the Work and Family Mobility Act.
Don Rosenberg is president of Advocates for Victims of Illegal Alien Crime.