Licensed drivers mean safer roads

In Virginia, many immigrants are barred from taking a written exam and road test for a driver’s license. This puts all residents of Virginia at risk to increased harm from unsafe drivers.

Virginia should remedy this public safety issue by providing all residents with access to driver’s licenses. Eleven states have granted access to driver’s permits or privilege cards to people who are undocumented, including Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

In these states, traffic incidents including “hit and runs” and fatalities have fallen by up to 40 percent. This is because everyone on the road has taken the same road safety test, written exam and vision test. Virginia should pass legislation to make our commonwealth safer for everyone.

An estimated 272,000 people live in Virginia who are currently undocumented. More than 200,000 of them have lived in Virginia for at least five years. Our neighbors who are undocumented pay taxes, go to work and study alongside everyone else.

We travel the same roads to all of these places. We should all meet the same standards of road safety, but many people do not because they are ineligible to take the test for a driver’s privilege card.

The Senate Finance committee recently passed Senate Bill 34, which provides for driver privilege cards applicant who (1) has reported income from Virginia sources on an individual tax return filed with the commonwealth in the preceding 12 months; (2) is not in violation of the insurance requirements for the registration of an uninsured motor vehicle; and (3) provides an unexpired passport as proof of identity.

Unfortunately, Sen. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg, who sites on the Finance Committee voted against S.B. 34.

Most people in Virginia have to drive to get to work, take their kids to school, visit to the doctor, the grocery store and everywhere else. Virginians who are paying taxes in the commonwealth should be able to drive to work and not be excluded based on the particular status that they hold.

Discriminating and stigmatizing immigrants at the expense of public welfare is wrong.

I urge Newman and Sen. Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg, to support this legislation as it moves forward.

WILLIAM JUDGE BROWNING

Lynchburg

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