Lesley Paone
Lesley Paone I develop applications in the e-commerce market space, I am also a co-founder of the open source e-commerce application thirty bees

Illegals and Drivers Licenses

Illegals and Drivers Licenses

This has been a hot button topic for the last several years. I saw it was revived again last week when Minnesota allowed illegal immigrants to apply for drivers licenses. Every legislative cycle this debate comes up in at least one state and I would like to weigh in with my take on it.

I was in an accident

If you know me personally, you know a couple years ago an illegal immigrant hit me and my wife as we were returning hme from dinner. I broke my sternum and bruised my internal organs from the abrupt collision, she on the other had ruptured several disks in her neck and broke her shoulder blade.

It was a somewhat traumatic experience and at the time and we did not really get a chance to confer with driver of the other vehicle. We actually were in a ride share car at the time and after EMS checked us out, we decided to hail another car and go home. That was a mistake looking back, since 3 hours later we were both in the emergency room, but I digress.

Having this experience did teach me a lot though, I learned more about the problem, ways to solve the problem, and the short comings with our system currently. So I feel like with my first hand knowledge I might have a better understanding of the issue than some people.

I live in Tennessee

Or maybe Nashville to be more specific. Nashville used to actually allow illegal immigrants to get drivers licenses, but that was struck down in recent years. I am not sure how the laws work or are written in other states, but Nashville is very interesting (to me at least) in their driving laws. See in Tennessee there are two distinct crimes around driving. One is driving without a license, that can carry up to a $50 fine and 30 days in jail. The other is driving on a suspended license. That can carry a $2500 fine and 11 months 29 days in jail.

This is a big difference in my mind. After our accident I did a bit of digging, the man that hit us had been arrested 5 times for driving without a license, but never incarcerated. This is actually pretty relevant thing, since in Tennessee driving without a license does not qualify for a habitual crime, but driving on a suspended license does. If the driver that hit us had been driving on a suspended license, he never actually would have hit us, he would have been in jail from 1-6 years.

Whats a solution?

I feel like licensing them would be a solution, while at the same time moving the unlicensed drivers into the same class as the people that drive on a suspended license. That way they would have no reason to not get a drivers license. This way, we can move the “undocumented” people out of the shadows in a sense. Right now in Tennessee, like most states, if you do not have a valid drivers license you cannot obtain car insurance.

The man that hit me and my wife did not have car insurance, I have no clue if it was because of his own doing, or because how insurance companies work with licensing restrictions. Either way, I was hit by someone that could not obtain insurance even if he wanted to. To me that creates a problem.

What compounds this even more in my mind is the history of the guy that hit us. Looking deeper into his history I found he was actually a licensed driver at one time. There was a time that Tennessee allowed illegal immigrants to get drivers licenses, during that time he got one. I have no clue if he followed through and had insurance, but at least he did choose the route to be documented somehow.

What I think

I feel like we should issue a drivers license to anyone over a specific age that can pass the test. Of course there needs to be documentation requirements so we know who we are actually issuing a license too, but that is a simple part of the issue.

If you noticed in this post I have referred to people as illegal immigrants, because well grammatically that is what they are. Undocumented workers or undocumented immigrants seems to be the popular term these days. But if you actually think about it, they do not have a real option to be documented. Issuing licenses to this group of people allows them a soft way into the system and a frictionless way to start to be documented.

It also allows them to be insured drivers too. For the life of me I cannot understand the argument against allowing illegal immigrants, that are already driving, to have car insurance. Its not to protect their assets, it is to protect other drivers on the road. Sure, maybe some will get full coverage and they will get their cars repaired too, but really, is that bad? Most immigrants have come to America for a better life, they try to fly under the radar and not cause problems. Lets give them a chance to be documented while also taking responsibility for their driving.

If you know Nashville, there really is not a public transportation argument for keeping these drivers off the road. We have a very lacking system here, even the ideas that have been proposed are lacking and shortsighted.

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