Report for Hearing on Bill AB60

 

 

 

 

DRIVER’S LICENSES FOR ALL MAKES FOR SAFER ROADS?

 

 

LOGICAL……..YES

 FACTUAL……..NO

 

 

 

 

Don Rosenberg

April 2013

 

unlicensedtokill.org

818-991-1956

 

The California DMV released a report on December 20, 2012 titled “Estimation of Fatal Car Crash Rates for Suspended/Revoked and Unlicensed Drivers in California”.  The report clearly demonstrated how drivers who have suspended/revoked (S/R) or are unlicensed drivers are 3 times more likely to cause a fatal car collision. (A AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety report pegs that number at 5 times.) The only recommendation made by the authors of the study was to impound the cars of these drivers to get them off the road.

Immigration rights groups and some newspapers and individuals have jumped on this report as ample evidence that we should issue licenses to illegal aliens (no disrespect but the most correct term). While there are no good statistics of the immigration status of unlicensed drivers (partly because many jurisdictions like Los Angeles (Special Order 40) do not always determine immigration status when just stopping someone but not arresting them) from my own research I believe that over 90% of unlicensed drivers in California are illegal aliens. It’s interesting to note that many of these same people were claiming for years that these people should be given licenses because they were the safest most careful drivers because they didn’t want to get caught  They have logically concluded that since licensed drivers commit less traffic fatalities and cause less traffic collisions licensing drivers makes them safer. Very logical and also very wrong.

The first clue is in the title of the report. The two things that drivers on suspended and revoked licenses have in common are that they all passed the driving requirements to get a license and they are mostly all bad or irresponsible drivers. The second clue is the word “Fatal”. Is it a valid conclusion to assume that if you are licensed and thus have less fatal crashes you are a safer driver because you are licensed? Traffic fatalities have plummeted in recent years. Are we to assume that is because we are better drivers and/or that the laws are being enforced better? Again, logical conclusions but not necessarily accurate.

If we look at the number of motor vehicle accidents over a twenty year period (1990 – 2009) and compare that to the number of traffic fatalities over the same period we see that the number of “accidents” decreased by only 6% while the number of fatalities decreased by 23%. Why have the fatality rates dropped so significantly while the accident rate decrease has been minimal?

Another revealing statistic is those of motor vehicle crash fatalities by vehicle. While fatality rates in general have been plummeting fatality rates of motorcyclists has been exploding. From 1998 to 2007 fatalities increased 124 percent and injuries increased 110 percent. The number of registered motorcycles during that time period only increased 50 percent. Are motorcyclists less safe drivers? Probably, but what is for sure is that their vehicles do not and have not had the better safety features that are now available in cars.

Looking at alcohol related fatalities we see similar statistics. In 2001 1.4 million DUI arrests were made in the United States. That year there were 17,400 alcohol related fatalities. In 2010 there were 1.4 million DUI arrests in the United States. That year there were 10, 228 alcohol related fatalities. That is a 41% drop in fatalities with no corresponding evidence that less people are drinking and driving. I realize that the arrest numbers are also influenced by enforcement but when you combine that with the general decline in accident rates versus fatality rates it becomes very obvious that a big part of the drop in fatalities is not due to better driving but better cars and better safety features.

There is ample evidence for that. Air bags are a fairly recent improvement. Although first widely introduced in the 1990’s acceptance was extremely limited (they were an additional cost option and there were reports of people, particularly children, actually killed by them).  Over the years they have not only become standard equipment on most cars but there are now passenger air bags, side air bags, rollover air bags and the technology in general has been greatly improved. There is a direct correlation between their introduction, the acceptance of air bags, and the increase in the percentage of the fleet with air bags and the rapid decline in fatality rates for all collisions. Additionally, seat belt usage has increased from 58% in 1994 to 84% in 2011. As the oldest segment of the population decreases that rate will continue to climb. Add to that rear view cameras, blind side warning systems, better bumpers, better braking systems, overall improved car design and it appears that giving unlicensed drivers newer cars would increase public safety significantly more than giving them a driver’s license.

Currently only two states, Washington and New Mexico issue drivers licenses to illegal aliens. Utah issues a driving permit that is more restricted.  Illinois has just passed a bill that the governor has signed and Maryland has also passed a driver’s license bill awaiting the governor’s signature. New Mexico started issuing licenses to illegal aliens in 2003 although Governor Martinez has been trying for three years to repeal the law.

There are two specific claims being made to support giving licenses to all regardless of immigration status. First, it will make them safer drivers and second they will buy insurance. Both claims are untrue. The only state where the existing statistics can be used to see what does happen when illegal aliens are licensed is New Mexico. The news is not good.

Prior to issuing driver’s licenses to illegal aliens in 2003 traffic fatalities in New Mexico had been decreasing from a high of 577 in 1982 (first year statistics) to 439 in 2003. For the next three years after everyone could be licensed they increased over the 2003 rate to 532 in 2004, 488 in 2005 and 484 in 2006. During that time period traffic fatalities were decreasing in almost every other state including California. They didn’t start dropping significantly from 2003 until 2008 (better cars?).  Since 2003 the number of uninsured drivers has increased from 26 percent to 29 percent in 2009. In 2010, the last year records are available the rate dropped to 25.7 There are other potential reasons for that like the economic downturn but that has not been the case nationally. While these numbers are not conclusive evidence to not issue licenses to all they hardly support the conclusion that licensing makes for safer drivers. In fact, you do not need a license to be an insured driver in California. The major insurance companies, State Farm, All State, etc. will not insure an unlicensed driver but there are many secondary companies that will. There is no proof that insurance makes you a better driver.

J. Tim Query, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Risk Management and Insurance at New Mexico State University said the following about New Mexico’s licensing of all. “If the policy is motivated by a lowering of uninsured motorists or decreasing accidents, I think it has had an insignificant effect. Being one of two states (at the time), Washington being the other, that allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain a state-issued driver’s license increases the probability of fraud.” An estimated 49,000 illegal aliens reside in New Mexico, and since the law went into effect some 80,000 licenses have been issued to foreign nationals.

So is licensing a waste of time? Not at all. There are three elements to the licensing process. The first is learning the rules of the road; the second is applying those rules by actually driving and the third is an eye test to determine if you can properly see.  I will admit that since starting my advocacy about making the roads safer two years ago I was convinced that these three criteria were extremely important. After all it made perfectly logical sense. However, with the more research I do the less I believe this to be true.

No one who is driving without a license has ever been eye tested by the DMV.  While that is a concern, I have read over 500 traffic fatality reports over the past two years and not one listed vision as a cause or contributing factor. I’m sure accidents would be reduced if everyone was tested and wore glasses if necessary but I don’t think it’s a significant number and many licensed drivers who are supposed to wear glasses when driving don’t. I also believe that more drivers, licensed or not, have greater issues with night blindness which is never tested.

The importance of learning the rules of the road and actually taking the driving test diminish the more you have been driving. Many of us probably don’t know the rule for how many car lengths per mph you should allow when driving behind someone (I think it is 1 car length for each 10mph) but the more we drive we instinctively know what is safe. We can judge oncoming traffic and whether we can safely make a left turn because of our driving experience.   Most unlicensed drivers learned how to drive in their home country and now they have driven here many for years. Most can probably pass the actual driving test and most people given a few days and the test in their language can pass the written test. I don’t believe the lack of written testing and an actual driving test for people who have been driving for a significant amount of time will improve their driving ability. As we have already seen those with suspended or revoked licenses statistically are almost as bad as unlicensed drivers.  So why are unlicensed drivers bad drivers?

New teenage drivers know the driving handbook better than everyone else. They have the best reflexes and the best eye sight. They also have the worst driving records. What they don’t have is experience driving so their judgment is questionable and very simply they act irresponsibly even though they were just taught what not to do and the worst is they drink too much. They are also culturally influenced by their friends. As a group unlicensed drivers are very irresponsible when driving and drink too much and they are culturally/environmentally influenced from their home country.

From the AAA report we know that unlicensed drivers (those never licensed) are 5 times more likely to drive drunk.  Those with s/r licenses are also about 5 times more likely to drive drunk. We also know from that report that of all the fatal accidents caused by unlicensed drivers 49 percent of the time the driver was drunk.  In the licensed population the number is between 20-25 percent. We also know that “Among 2010 DUI arrestees, Hispanics (43.7%) again constituted the largest racial/ethnic group, as they have each year since 1992 (with the exception of 1999). Hispanics continued to be arrested at a rate substantially higher than their estimated percentage of California’s adult population (33.7% in 2010).” This statement comes verbatim from the 2012 Annual Report of the California DUI Management Information System. This annual report is required by law (Assembly Bill 757, Chapter 450, 1989 Legislative Session) to be delivered to the legislature every year.

According to the New Mexico Department of Transportation over 70% of all traffic fatalities were caused by Alcohol/drug-involved, driver inattention (distracted driving), excessive speed and disregarding traffic controls (lights and stop signs). None of these reasons would be lessened by obtaining a driver’s license.

Additionally, the New Mexico Department of Transportation reported significant increases in speeding vehicles as a contributing factor in crashes after issuing licenses to illegal aliens. In 2003 speeding vehicles in crashes had followed a downward trend and bottomed out at 6,506 out of a total number of crashes of 89,932. The following year the number of crashes increased to 97,755 an 8 percent increase. Those where speeding was a contributing factor increased to 8,393 a 22 percent increase. The number of total crashes where speeding was a contributing factor remained above the pre-licensing 2003 level until 2008. The percent of speeding as a contributing factor still remains slightly above 2003 levels through the last available statistics in 2010.

Although data is sparse when you do examine what is available it is readily apparent that traffic safety and driving habits in Mexico and Central American countries is considerably lacking. The World Health Organization reports that while traffic fatalities are plummeting in the United States they are increasing in Mexico, Costa Rica and El Salvador (they did not issue reports on the other Central American countries so we don’t have those statistics.).  Looking at enforcement in the following categories, drink (drunk) driving, motorcycle helmet laws, seat belt laws and child restraint laws, Mexico is at best poor, Costa Rica and El Salvador are fair to good although El Salvador while having child restraint laws scored a “0” in enforcement.  The United States has 10 times as many registered vehicles as Mexico but less than 2 times as many traffic fatalities. We have 325 times the number of registered cars as Costa Rica but only 40 times the number of traffic fatalities. We have 400 times the number of registered cars as El Salvador and 20 times the number of traffic fatalities.

COUNTRY

ROAD FATALITIES PER 100,000 PEOPLE

 

ROAD FATALITIES PER 100,000 VEHICLES

Costa Rica

15.4

94.5

Dominican Republic

17.3

140.7

El Salvador

12.6

150

Guatamala

14.7

125.6

Honduras

13.5

139.2

Mexico

20.7

78.4

Nicaragua

14.2

249.1

Panama

12.7

105.8

United States

12.3

 

15

Source: World Health Organization

 

 

Over 80 percent of all illegal aliens in the United States came from these countries. This is where many of these people learned to drive. This is the driving environment they became accustomed to.  While I have not been able to locate any statistics about the breakdown of driving of illegal aliens by country of origin, if all things were equal , about 15 -20 percent of traffic fatality reports should be people of Asian, European, African and Eurasian descent . Anecdotally, I don’t see reports that come close to being 5 percent of the total.

It is impossible to accurately determine how many of the 43.7% Hispanics are illegal aliens (and yes there are illegal aliens in California who are not Hispanic) but knowing that 49% of fatal accidents are caused by unlicensed drivers and most of the unlicensed drivers are Hispanic who are illegal aliens you could conclude that Hispanics who are citizens or in the country legally are probably caught DUI at about the same rate as other racial and ethnic groups but clearly illegal aliens are caught drunk considerably more than their  estimated percentage of California’s adult population. More drunk drivers will definitely make the roads less safe. There is no evidence that issuing driver’s licenses reduce drunk driving.

 

The next issue is that of hit and runs. On my website (www.unlicensedtokill.org) is a Whitepaper I published in October 2012 on unlicensed driving. The report discusses the problem of hit and run injury collisions in the city of Los Angeles. In 2010 there were 42,000 collisions. Of that total over 19,000 were hit and runs.  Almost 47 percent were hit and runs versus a national average of 11 percent. Again from the AAA report 35 percent of unlicensed drivers flee the scene. Licensed drivers flee 3.7 percent of the time. Are we to believe that if illegal aliens are given licenses they will not flee? They flee, not because they don’t have a license but because they are here illegally. We also know that there is rampant ID fraud among the illegal alien community. How do we verify who they really are when they get a driver’s license? Now that we have their fingerprints on file that will only exacerbate the desire to flee since they may be linked to other crimes they have committed or at the very least are identifiable (linkable) for any future transgressions. When they do commit other crimes and are fingerprinted, when they are released from jail but before their hearing/trial they often disappear. Getting fingerprinted could be a huge deterrent to getting a license. (See what just happened in Illinois).  I am in no way insinuating that everyone in the illegal alien community is criminals. However, because of the way they entered the country and our lack of specific identification they cannot be treated as individuals but only as a group

On April 10, 2012 the Board of Police Commissioners approved the implementation of Special Order 7. The purpose of this potentially illegal action (there are currently two lawsuits that have been filed) was to incentivize unlicensed drivers to be more responsible by requiring that all cars be registered, the driver have insurance, a proper ID and no prior convictions for driving without a license. In return if they were caught driving they would be given an opportunity to get a licensed driver to retrieve their car before it was impounded. If no one could come in a “reasonable” amount of time the car would be towed but could be retrieved the next day instead of the legal 30 day impoundment requirement.

So what happened in 2012? The number of total impounds decreased by 39 percent. Total traffic collisions increased 1.02 percent from 44,661 in 2011 to 45,122. Hit and run collisions decreased by .87 percent from 19,751 to 19,579 but fatalities increased 6.86 percent from 1,017 in 2011 to 1,092 in 2012. Hit and run collisions are probably understated as if the victim of the hit and run was an unlicensed driver it is unlikely that they would report it.

What is also interesting is Chief Beck’s cover letter in the February 22, 2013 report to the Board of Commissioners. He states that “In 2012, Hit and Run collisions were down approximately one percent while the number of total traffic collisions and fatal and severe injury collisions categories experienced minor increases.” Chief Beck believes that a .87 percent decrease deserves numerical mention at “approximately” one percent but a 6.86 percent increase in fatalities and serious injuries is considered a “minor increase”.

Clearly less than a year’s worth of statistics is not sufficient to draw final conclusions about the impact of this “policy change” However, considering the overwhelming evidence that these drivers are dangerous and cause a disproportional amount of fatalities, injuries, hit and runs and crashes playing Russian Roulette with people lives is hardly a prudent public safety policy.

 

Conclusions

There is certainly more than enough blame to go around as to why so many unlicensed and suspended and revoked drivers are getting in collisions costing the public billions of dollars a year. Why there are thousands of people getting injured every year, many of them seriously and why nationally over 7,000 people are killed each year. Aside from the unlicensed and suspended and revoked licensed drivers themselves our politicians, law enforcement (rarely the rank and file), the media and all of the “rights” groups that either know the facts and ignore them or are ignorant of the dangers but don’t care to educate themselves are also responsible.  I believe that it is mostly the former and political pressures influence their deadly decisions.

In 1994-5 the California legislature was made aware of these dangers and passed some of the strictest unlicensed and suspended and revoked driver laws in the country. Unfortunately over the years enforcement has been decreasing to where now the laws are almost totally ignored.   Attorney General Kamala Harris who ignored the law as District Attorney of San Francisco now allows almost the entire state to ignore the law despite her constitutional responsibility to “adequately” enforce the law.  Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at the beginning of a debate over impounding cars said (through his spokesperson Peter Sanders) that public safety was the paramount concern. After a year of debate the policy to almost universally stop impounding cars was adopted. The mayor’s mention of public safety being paramount was the first and last time the words were ever spoken. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said the impounding policy wasn’t working. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety utilizing factual data said just the opposite when impounding was being utilized. Beck never mentioned that LAPD had since 2006 cut impounds almost in half. He never mentioned that less than 50 percent of impounds were kept less than the legally required 30 days. He never mentioned that the city attorney NEVER prosecuted unlicensed drivers and of course he never mentioned that hit and runs in Los Angeles were over 400 percent more than the national average.   Beck then had the audacity to say that allowing unlicensed drivers to drive would make the roads safer. Tell that to the families of the additional 75 people who were killed or seriously injured in 2012.

When San Francisco decided to stop impounding cars in 2009 then Police Chief George Gascón said that the poor couldn’t afford drivers licenses. They could afford to drive but they couldn’t afford $32 for a six year license? He also said that the poor couldn’t afford driver training. California only requires professional driver training if you are under 18. After that anyone with a license can teach you. His excuse was also disingenuous as he tried to use the poor as an excuse when he was really talking about illegal aliens. A statement from the Chief of Police that if you can’t afford to learn how to drive go ahead and drive anyway should get you fired. In San Francisco it got Gascón promoted to District Attorney where tragically he has continued to ignore public safety unless you are riding a bicycle. In February 2012 an extremely careless bicycle rider struck and killed a 72 year old man.  Gascón personally got involved and announced that “people have to realize the rules of the road apply to everyone”.  In 2011, 899 pedestrians were hit by cars and 17 pedestrians were hit by bicycles. San Francisco has the highest per capita auto fatality rate in the state.  Those laws that apply to everyone do not apply to unlicensed drivers as Gascón still refuses to prosecute unless the driver kills someone.

In a major commitment to public safety in 2011, Governor Brown signed a bill forbidding anyone under 18 to use a tanning salon. At the same time he also signed a bill that stopped impounding cars when the unlicensed driver was caught at a sobriety checkpoint. Protect our children from getting a tan so they can be killed by an unlicensed driver.

It is crystal clear that politics has trumped public safety. Our political leaders are literally allowing people to die so that they can get elected. I am sure they are now ready to use the DMV Report to do what they have been afraid to do and use “public safety” as a cover to allow illegal aliens to get drivers licenses. So what if it’s not true.

If there is one statement that ties together the folly of licensing illegal aliens it comes directly from the September 2012 DMV report, Estimation of Fatal Crash Rates for Suspended/Revoked and Unlicensed Drivers in California.

The finding that the annual fatal crash over involvement rate for unlicensed drivers did not change following enactment of Vehicle Code Section 12801.5 suggests that unlicensed drivers who are ineligible to become licensed under this law are just as hazardous as drivers who are unlicensed for other reasons. If they were truly safer drivers it would be expected that their increasing representation among unlicensed drivers after the law took effect would be associated with a concurrent reduction in the fatal crash over involvement rate for unlicensed drivers as an overall group, which isn’t supported by the study findings.

 

This shows that this group were bad drivers when they were allowed to get licenses, they were bad drivers once they couldn’t get licenses and as the New Mexico results prove they are still bad drivers once they could get a license again.

If a 30 day impound with a cost of $1,000-$1,500 to retrieve your car and a possible deportation didn’t make you a more careful driver why would getting a license have that effect?

Since my son was killed by an unlicensed driver over two years ago I have been researching the issue daily. As I was told that the man who killed my son was here legally my research focused on unlicensed drivers. That research took me to illegal aliens not the other way around.

My goal was and is to make the roads safer.  If licensing illegal aliens will make the roads safer so be it. I started with the same assumption that licensing makes you a safer driver. However, my research tells me just the opposite.  I welcome anyone to do additional research and implore California and other states not to issue licenses to all until research shows that it is the safe and correct way to go.

In the interim, there is no reason that anyone who does not have a license, or who has had their license suspended or revoked should be allowed to drive. There is absolutely no reason that anyone who has entered this country illegally or anyone who has had their license suspended or revoked for any reason should be able to jeopardize the health, safety and welfare of law abiding people.  It is the moral, ethical and legal responsibility of our elected leaders, to insist that law enforcement remove these people from driving and that our city and district attorneys prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.

If additional research proves me wrong then a process to allow licensing regardless of immigration status can begin. However, along with that decision there must be a true commitment to not only follow existing law but to actually strengthen it because there will be no excuse to drive without a license. To allow the carnage to continue until that day is nothing short of criminal negligence.

 

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