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California Unlicensed Drivers: Who Are They?

Unlicensed drivers in California are a big problem. The Huffington Post reported that unlicensed drivers are at least three times more likely to be the cause of a fatal car accident than other types of drivers. Most people immediately lay blame with undocumented immigrants but according to Jorge Mario-Cabrera, spokesman for immigrant advocacy group CHIRLA, that is an unfair assumption.

The California Department of Motor vehicles released a report in December of 2012 evaluated collision data from 1987 to 2009 and determined unlicensed driver are dangerous. What isn’t so clear is who the drivers are. While some are certainly illegal or undocumented immigrants, others are felons who have lost their license and still others are people who have never had a driver’s license. They could have a license in another state or have had it revoked for a D.U.I., repeated traffic offenses or nonpayment of fees.

The Los Angeles Times published the study soon after it was released and reported the findings were “fuel to the debate over whether illegal immigrants should be eligible for licenses." However, nowhere in the report does it state who the unlicensed drivers are, immigrant or otherwise. 

Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) released a statement purporting that the vast majority of illegal drivers in California are immigrants. He has offered no explanation of where he got this information or why he believes it to be true. He believes that now more than ever the state legislature to pass AB 60, the Safe and Responsible Driver Act. 

While not ideal, the act would allow immigrants to obtain a driver’s license regardless of the status of their citizenship. While not a full repair on the driving record of California and car accident rate, it will serve as a step in the right direction. 

"The report underscores the need for Sacramento to come to their senses and grant licenses to undocumented immigrants," said immigrant advocate Jorge Mario-Cabrera. He advocates that all immigrants, legal or illegal, documented or otherwise, be able to take the driver’s license test in order to make the streets safer.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has a process for dealing with undocumented drivers. They impound their cars. The reasoning behind that logic is that if the undocumented driver has no car, they cannot drive. 

The Los Angeles Police Department decided this tactic was unfair to immigrants and did not heed the suggestion. January 1rst a new law came into being that bans police from impounding and towing cars of undocumented drivers. 

The city of bell almost singlehandedly brought about this law when it came to light that they were charging exorbitant fees to all unlicensed drivers. Some victims even forced to quit their jobs when they lost their transportation.