Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran speaking at Highway Coalition press conference in the Thompson Center, Chicago, on November 13, 2012
The Highway Safety Coalition gathered for a press conference at the Thompson Center in Chicago called on legislators to move beyond politics of fear and division and to find real solutions. A coalition of law enforcement, healthcare, business, labor, faith, and community leaders sent a strong message to the Illinois General Assembly to have courage and put highway safety first by passing legislation in veto session 2012 to ensure all Illinois drivers, including undocumented drivers are trained, tested, licensed, and insured.
Standing up for highway safety is an act of sensible courage to do what is right for Illinois and its drivers. The states of Utah, Washington and New Mexico already require all motorists, including undocumented immigrants, to get a driver’s license. Since Utah began its program in 1999, the rate of uninsured motorists fell from 28% to under 9%. Since New Mexico made this change in 2003, its rate of uninsured motorists fell from 33% to under 9%. New Mexico also saw a 24% decrease in alcohol-related crashes and a 25% drop in traffic fatalities.
In Illinois there are approximately 250,000 immigrant drivers driving without a driver’s license and insurance. IL law requires anyone applying for a driver’s license to provide a Social Security Number (SSN). These 250,000 immigrant drivers are NOT ALLOWED to drive legally because they do not have a SSN. Unlicensed and uninsured drivers are involved in 79,600 accidents each year in Illinois, costing $660 million in damage.
“My jails are clogged with cases of drivers who are there solely for driving without a license or insurance,” said Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran. ” Nearly 1/3 of all drivers booked at Lake County jail for traffic offenses from Oct 2011 to Sept 2012 were undocumented immigrants who could not get drivers licenses. This is a waste of time of my judges, courts and officers. I am here calling on General Assembly to Lead with Courage: to stop waste to tax payer dollars, waste to my time, I want to go after bad guys not good people just trying to go to work, school, or church. Put Highway Safety First.”
Providing a way for Illinois’s immigrant drivers to get trained, tested, licensed and insured will make everyone on the roads safer. Law enforcement will be able to use licenses to identify drivers during stops and check their driving records. In addition, drivers will be more likely to stay at the scene of an accident to aid police and emergency workers and to exchange insurance information with other drivers.
“Licensing all drivers is an important issue for us because it will help first responders and healthcare providers identify patients under their care,” said Esther Corpuz, Vice-President of Vanguard Health Systems. “Patients with standardized, state-issued ID like a drivers licenses is critical for hospitals and providers to be able to use to verify patient medical history and facilitate patient billing. It will also increase pool of urgently needed organ donors.”
Omar Duque, President and CEO of the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Billy Lawless, Executive Board Member of the Illinois Restaurant Association, representing the business sector expressed strong support for highway safety as a vehicle for economic growth for small businesses and for the State. “If 75% of these [undocumented] motorists got licenses, the State would receive $5.63 million dollars in new revenue,” said Duque.
“We see many employees who miss work or cannot accept promotions to other locations because they are scared to drive and with good reason,” added Lawless.
Secretary-Treasurer of SEIU Local 1 Laura Garza said, “Workers are already driving to work, children to school, and it is better for all of us when they are trained, licensed, and insured. We need sensible solutions and hope the General Assembly will move past politics of scapegoating and arrive at real solutions that benefit our economy, our highways and our families.”
Jesse Sharkey, Vice-President of the Chicago Teachers Union, also stood in support of highway safety. “Teachers’ union is 100% standing behind ALL immigrant parents to get trained, tested, licensed and insured. Highway safety drivers license for all is good education policy.”
The Highway Safety Coalition also received support from the Illinois Insurance Association, a clear indication of increasing support for common sense legislation to ensure that all Illinois motorists are trained, licensed and insured.
Veto session in the Illinois General Assembly is from November 27-29 and from December 4-6.