Washington, D.C., Passes Licensing Act for Undocumented Drivers

A newly finalized act in Washington, D.C., that will allow undocumented immigrants to obtain “limited purposed” driver’s licenses will improve traffic safety by allowing more drivers there to get licenses and buy car insurance, according to the mayor of the nation’s capital.

The Drivers Safety Amendment Act of 2013, signed into law by Mayor Vincent Gray last week, allows those who lack “legal presence in the United States” and “have not been assigned a social security card number” to obtain what the District is calling “limited purpose driver’s licenses, learner’s permits or identification cards.”

Also, the law requires that applicants reside in the District of Columbia for more than six months. Before being issued a card, applicants must pass writing and driving examinations, while card recipients face typical requirements like valid auto coverage.

Undocumented immigrants will be able to get the license card beginning May 1, 2014. Licenses will be printed with the phrase “not valid for official federal purposes,” and cannot be used for proof of legal status or voter identification.

Mary M. Cheh, chairperson for the District’s committee on transportation and the environment, cited reports from California-based traffic studies showing that “drivers who obtain a state-issued driver’s license are safer than those who do not” because the latter are more likely to either flee the scene of a crash or cause the crash themselves.

“These individuals … often lack proper motor vehicle insurance,” according Cheh’s report, where she named uninsured drivers as a factor contributing to “an unsafe atmosphere on the District’s streets.”

According to a legislative report, the bill makes 15,000 motorists who are undocumented immigrants eligible for driver’s licenses, a number that is more than half of the District’s total undocumented population.

Calling vehicles “a lifeline for survival,” Gray said that the legislation “promotes public safety and ensures the safe operation of motor vehicles.”

Under the act, limited purpose licenses and permits are valid for eight years.

Lacking a nationwide law on licensing illegal immigrants, lawmakers in several states over the past year have pursued legislation creating programs and pathways toward legal driving rights for the undocumented.

Those states included Vermont, California and Colorado.

Washington, Utah and New Mexico, allowed undocumented immigrants access to driving rights through licensure programs and processes that were legalized before 2013.

In California, the state’s insurance regulator said that drivers could see “auto insurance savings for all” there, as more motorists join the pool of covered vehicles and push down the price of premiums.

Oregon’s program was set to debut in January, but voters put a referendum on the November 2014 ballot that could nix the program. If voters choose to preserve the program, it will take effect on Dec. 4, 2014.

Lawmakers in the Florida state Legislature had passed a licensing bill for the undocumented population, but it was vetoed in June by Gov. Rick Scott.

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for Patch.com and the Desert Dispatch and was the editor in chief of the Guardian (the twice-weekly newspaper at the University of California, San Diego) before coming to Online Auto Insurance News.

No comments yet.

Comment on this article