Unlicensed Drivers Bill Lands on Brown's Desk

By Chris Roberts
|  Monday, Sep 12, 2011  |  Updated 1:44 PM PDT
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Unlicensed Drivers Bill Lands on Brown's Desk

Under a bill currently awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown's signature, California law enforcement officers would not be allowed to use DUI checkpoints to arrest unlicensed drivers.

In many parts of California, being without a car is not a crime -- but a near-prison sentence, as a car is a requirement to go to school, to go to work, to go basically anywhere.

But while many unlicensed drivers help drive the California economy -- such as illegal immigrants, many of whom who can receive local ID cards from cities or counties -- these unlicensed drivers face arrest and impounding of their vehicles if stopped at a drunken driving checkpoint, even while stone-cold sober. A Los Angeles member of the Assembly wants to change this, but if he does, the state's roads could become more dangerous, according to opponents.

The bill is called AB 353, and it would prohibit law enforcement officers from impounding cars and arresting drivers if their only offense is driving without a license, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. It's not just illegal immigrants who drive without licenses, either -- and that's part of the problem.

Born-and-bred Americans drive without licenses because they've been revoked or because they never got them, which contributes to unlicensed drivers' much-higher rates of accidents and other road issues, according to the newspaper.

Unlicensed drivers are 4.9 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than licensed drivers, 3.7 times more likely to drive while intoxicated, and 4.4 times more likely to be hit-and-run drivers, according to studies conducted in 2000 and 2008, the newspaper reported.

The bill sits on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk, waiting to be signed or vetoed.

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