Governor Baker Needs to Support Legislation that Lifts Restrictions on Driver’s Licenses

Governor Baker Needs to Support Legislation that Lifts Restrictions on Drivers Licenses

Bridget Nicolo, Contributing Writer

Undocumented immigrants live among us. They might serve us coffee in the morning or sit next to us on the train. Their children attend school with us.  

They also drive next to us on the highway. However, without the ability to obtain a legal driver’s license, these drivers jeopardize the safety of everyone on the road. Governor Baker must allow undocumented immigrants to obtain Massachusetts driver’s licenses by supporting Bill HD.448/SD.273. 

The system we have right now is, frankly, dangerous. “Restricting driver’s licenses results in unsafe roads, higher insurance rates, and overwhelmed court systems,” says the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). Drivers are currently on the road without proper training and examinations provided by the DMV. This leads to a higher number of accidents, and it has created an overall lack of trust, safety, and responsibility on our Massachusetts roads. This cannot continue.

Student drivers like me, who have been able to complete the proper driving education and pass the examination, still feel unsafe having untested drivers on the roads. People who will inevitably get into accidents with these untrained drivers will face further complications when they learn undocumented immigrants cannot legally obtain insurance without proper licensing. 

In Massachusetts today, road safety and insurance rates aren’t the only issues caused by this lack of proper licensing. The COVID-19 crisis has hit everyone hard. In this day and age, being able to own (and legally drive) one’s own vehicle is a privilege.  Three out of four undocumented immigrants are essential workers–workers who risk their health and the health of those around them to provide a necessary service to the community. Without a license, these workers risk spreading the virus to the public (or, of course, losing their jobs).

Carpooling, ride-sharing, and public transportation can be risky nowadays. Not only that, but many COVID testing sites are drive-up to ensure the safety of workers and patients alike. 

A driver’s license isn’t just a form of identification. It’s a necessary safety measure for the health and well-being of Massachusetts’ citizens. Last year, The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center predicted that “between 41,000 and 78,000 new drivers would likely apply for licenses in the first three years after the bill’s passage.”  That’s a significant number. That’s tens of thousands of formerly unlicensed drivers receiving proper education, testing, and legal insurance in case of accidents.

The same study also concluded licensed drivers would generate an extra $5 million in tax revenue per year, “and because more people are insured, insurance holders, in general, could see a decrease in their annual premiums by $20.” That’s the effect of a solution that would make our Massachusetts roads safer.

Governor Baker has voiced his concern for the security of our state; he fears that people will use these licenses irresponsibly. 16 other US states have allowed undocumented immigrants driver’s licenses. Many of these states have instituted a system where undocumented people apply for a separate license. Undocumented immigrants receive temporary licenses in Utah and Illinois. In Delaware and New York, they receive licenses with a special indicator on them, “Not for Federal Purposes.” Massachusetts has the ability to provide licensing undocumented immigrants without providing them with legal documentation. Licensed or not, they will remain undocumented.

We need to keep our streets safe. Providing licenses to all drivers (especially to the thousands who currently drive unlicensed), will ensure this safety. Governor Baker has the power to protect MA residents, and he should support HD.448/S.D.273.