(Español) Connecticut sees a reduction of hit-and-run and driving without license violations four years after overhauling the requirements for obtaining driver’s licenses. In 2015, Connecticut passed a law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain a valid driver’s license after paying the appropriate fees, passing the road tests, and getting their vehicle insured. In the four years since the passage of the law, hit-and-run crashes have dropped 9% statewide and about 4,000 fewer people convicted of driving without a driver’s license. Many public officials cite the passage of the 2015 law for this decrease in the above incidents, as they are more willing and able to remain at the scene of an accident and are better trained to handle traffic stops since they are formally familiar with the laws of the road. Additionally, the drivers are now confident they will not be charged with driving without a license should they be pulled over or get into an accident.
Immigrants who benefited from this law say their quality of life has also vastly improved. One father, who works in construction, drives up to 80 miles per day for work. Prior to 2015, he was in constantly worried about being pulled over, as, at best, it would result in a ticket for driving while unlicensed which can sometimes be a sum of $500, or, at worst, potentially falling into the hands of federal immigration authorities, with the possibility of being arrested. Now, the father is even able to drive his kids to soccer tournaments in Baltimore and Washington D.C. Despite this newfound freedom from worry, he still has to wonder whether having the Driving Only (D.O.) license can easily mark him to federal immigration authorities. His fear still remains that, if he’s ever pulled over, if the person he’s handing his license to has the authority to arrest him for being in the country unlawfully.
Connecticut is one of eleven states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to offer access to driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Wisconsin are also considering similar legislature.