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Letter to the Editor: Let illegal immigrants get licenses

Saturday, January 07, 2012
Chicago Sun-Times

Let illegal immigrants get licenses

As sheriff of Illinois’ largest county, I am responsible for providing safe roads. We are all safer when every driver is trained, tested, licensed and insured. That is why I support SB957, legislation that requires unlicensed immigrant drivers to obtain Temporary Visitor Driver’s Licenses.

Illinois already offers a Temporary Visitor Driver’s License to immigrants with non-work visas. Immigrants are driving every day. They need to get to work, take their children to school, shop at grocery stores or go to church. The TVDLs are visually distinct with a purple background. They are marked on the front that they are not valid for identification purposes, meaning that they cannot be used to vote, purchase a firearm or board a plane. SB957 expands the TVDL to allow immigrants to drive here legally, on a temporary basis, as long as they are trained, tested and have proof of insurance.

Unlicensed and uninsured drivers inflict a cost on all of us. In Illinois alone, these drivers are involved in 8,000 accidents each year at a cost of $64 million in damage claims. In 2011, 42 percent of all fatal crashes in Illinois involved an unlicensed driver. Nationwide, unlicensed drivers are five times likelier to be involved in a fatal crash than licensed drivers. These accidents drive up the cost of insurance for all of us.

With even half of the 250,000 unlicensed immigrants licensed and insured, Illinois policyholders would save $46 million per year. Other states that have passed similar laws have seen their uninsured motorist rates plummet. Since New Mexico began issuing licenses to immigrants in 2003, its rate of uninsured motorists fell from 33 percent to 9 percent while its alcohol-related crashes decreased by 24 percent and its traffic fatalities rate dropped by 25 percent.

When immigrants can drive legally, our roads will be safer, our insurance rates will be lower, and our economy will be stronger from the work and buying power of all of our state’s residents. The Illinois Senate demonstrated commendable courage and common sense when it passed SB957. It is my hope that the governor be given the opportunity to sign this important legislation.

Tom Dart, Sheriff



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