Guest Column: Keep unlicensed drivers off the road

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An LASD deputy questions a driver at a DUI checkpoint in 2013.

Driver’s License checkpoints have been under fire by illegal immigration rights groups, who claim that these checkpoints are unfair to working families and target “undocumented workers.” Arturo Carmona, executive director of Presente.org said, “It’s something that makes no sense.” 

Let me help those who don’t see the need make sense of the need for the checkpoints. In 2010, my son Drew was one of 7,200 people (25% of all traffic fatalities) killed by unlicensed drivers annually. Of that number, 3,200 were killed by people driving with a suspended or revoked license. About 4,000 were killed by illegal alien drivers. 

Unlicensed drivers are five times more likely to cause a fatal collision, five times more likely to drive drunk, and hit and run 10 times more than licensed drivers. In Los Angeles, 21 percent of all drivers are unlicensed. They are responsible for more than 70 percent of all hit and runs. Unlicensed drivers are drunk in 48 percent of all fatal collisions, compared with 20 percent for licensed drivers. 

The purpose behind checkpoints is to not only get these drivers off the road but to keep them off. Public safety demands it. The reality is when cars are not impounded the unlicensed driver is back behind the wheel immediately. Impounding, while certainly not the cure-all, reduces recidivism by 18 percent. 

Of course, the response is if we allow this group to get a driver’s license the roads will be safer. If only that were true, I would be the first one in support. One would think that people who are trying to avoid attention by the police would be the most careful drivers. Reality tells a different story. Among those who have had their licenses revoked or suspended, unlicensed drivers as a group are even worse. In more than 70 percent of all fatalities the driver was drunk, ran a red light or a stop sign or was speeding. You don’t need a license to know you can’t do that. 

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Study has been compiling these statistics for close to 20 years. Last December, the California DMV also released a report on unlicensed drivers. Until 2003, illegal aliens were able to obtain a driver’s license in California. One of the key conclusions of the DMV report was that this group was just as dangerous on the road when they could get licensed as they have been since without licenses. 

Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at UCLA School of Public Affairs said, “There are some states that have woken up and smelled the coffee and started issuing licenses to undocumented workers.” They should wake up and do some research. These efforts are purely based on political correctness and ignore the facts and will further jeopardize public safety. New Mexico became the first state to issue licenses to illegal aliens after denying them for a period of time (Washington state and Utah also have active programs but they never stopped issuing licenses). The results were disastrous. After years of declining fatality rates, the number of killed exploded for the next four years. Collisions were up, as well as speeding violations. The program is also rampant with fraud. The governor, Susan Martinez, has been unsuccessfully trying to repeal the law for the past three years. 

The other claim was that the number of uninsured would decrease. New Mexico went from second worst in the country at 26 percent to worst at 29 percent. This is a reason now given in California to allow licensing (AB60 is working its way to the governor’s desk for signature) regardless of immigration status. However, California is the second worst in the country, with 26 percent of its licensed driver’s uninsured. It is very easy to register your car, get your sticker and your insurance card without ever spending a penny. As most of the people we are talking about are judgment proof, they will not spend their limited resources on insurance. 

In my testimony in opposition to AB60, I twice asked Assemblyman Alejo, the bill’s sponsor, to produce one shred of evidence that his bill would make for safer roads. His only response is that his bill will make the roads safer. 

Space limits the amount of information I can provide here. Source documentation and additional research is available at www.unlicensedtokill.org. I will respond to all questions by email at unlicensedtokill@gmail.com.