Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle today urged the Illinois House to adopt legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, citing data that it will ease the burden on Cook County’s courts.
In Cook County, more than 40,000 tickets were issued in 2012 to motorists for driving without a license. Cook County traffic court data shows roughly 10% of all cases involved driving without a license in 2012.
Illinois is home to approximately 250,000 immigrant motorists who are unable to get a driver’s license and insurance. Unlicensed and uninsured immigrant drivers cost Illinois residents $64 million in damage claims each year, according to the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
“Requiring every Illinois driver to be trained, tested, licensed and insured will make our roads safer,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said. “This legislation will ease the burden on Cook County courts and the jail, which could save taxpayers money.”
In 2011, 42% of all fatal crashes in Illinois involved unlicensed drivers. Nationwide, unlicensed motors are five times more likely to be in a fatal crash than licensed drivers according to AAA. Washington and New Mexico already require all motorists, including undocumented immigrants, to get a driver’s license.
“Licensing and insuring all motorists, regardless of immigration status, is smart and commonsense legislation that will help make the road safer for everyone,” Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia said. “This would free up resources to tackle issues like violent crime and growing health disparities in our communities.”
Last month the highway safety legislation, SB 957, received bipartisan support in the Senate, where it passed with a supermajority of votes. It could be considered by the House as soon as next week. Governor Pat Quinn has indicated he will sign the measure into law if it reaches his desk. If passed, the legislation will go into effect 10 months after the governor’s signature.
“We look forward to the same bipartisanship in the House in January to ensure that our highways are safe and families secure,” said ICIRR’s CEO Lawrence Benito.