Oct 2013

Undocumented Immigrants With Driver’s Licenses Could Reduce Uninsured Motorist Accidents

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed into effect a law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain a license to drive in the state of California. The new policy changes a 1993 law prohibiting undocumented immigrants from attaining a license and advocates argue that the new law will reduce the overall number of accidents and will result in a decline in the number of uninsured drivers. 

Uninsured driver accident lawyers in Irvine know that unlicensed drivers are overrepresented in fatal car accidents by a ratio of five to one. Unlicensed drivers are also unable to obtain insurance, which is a major concern in California where Think Progress reports that insurance companies paid $634 million in claims for uninsured motorist accidents in 2009. With the new rule change, these costs and the risk of fatal crashes should decline.

Preventing Uninsured Driver Accidents

In California, there are an estimated 24 million licensed drivers and two million unlicensed motorists. CBS News reports that as many as 1.4 million of the unlicensed motorists are undocumented immigrants who can now apply for licenses under the new law. The licenses will become available beginning January of 2015 and will carry a distinction on the front of the card indicating they are used for driving purposes only and not as federal identification.

California is the eleventh state to take this step, with seven of the other states changing their laws just in the past year to make it possible for undocumented immigrants to obtain a license.  Colorado and Oregon are among the states that have preceded California in granting licenses to individuals who are unable to prove citizenship status. The action is also not the first taken by California to make licensing more available, as the governor signed a bill last year permitting young undocumented immigrants granted temporary legal status by President Obama to obtain a license.

In California, as in other states, all undocumented immigrants wishing to obtain a driver’s license will need to pass the standard written test and the standard driving test. This will ensure that the motorists have the skills necessary to drive safely and obey traffic laws on California’s roads. This alone should significantly reduce the number of accidents, as an AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Study revealed that 18.2 percent of all accidents nationwide between 2007 and 2009 involved a driver who had no valid driver’s license. These accidents caused a total of 21,049 deaths.

Because having a license makes it possible to secure insurance, the high costs of uninsured motorist coverage should decline, and motorists involved in an accident with an undocumented immigrant will no longer be forced to turn to their own insurance companies for coverage.

The granting of licenses to undocumented immigrants is also projected to reduce the number of hit-and-run crashes in California. In 2010 alone, 14,735 hit-and-run crashes were reported by the California Highway Patrol, leaving 147 dead and 19,009 injured.  With fewer unlicensed and uninsured drivers on the roads, these numbers may also decline.

If you’ve been injured, personal injury lawyers in Irvine can help. Contact the Law Offices of Daniel C. Carlton at (949) 757-0707 today for your free case evaluation.