Driver safety

A new report from Kids Forward finds that Wisconsin would be safer for everyone if Wisconsin lawmakers expanded access to drivers’ licenses to undocumented immigrants. The policy not only would protect immigrant families who are currently under attack by federal lawmakers, but would bring broad-based benefits to Wisconsin’s economy and boost families, communities, and businesses across Wisconsin.

New research from Kids Forward shows that expanding access to licenses would make Wisconsin highways safer, result in insurance savings for a broad pool of drivers, help businesses connect with workers whose skills  match employer needs. Expansion also would provide a small step toward justice for immigrants in Wisconsin.

“Wisconsin’s immigrant communities make significant contributions to Wisconsin’s schools, communities, and economy — and deserve to be treated humanely,” said Ken Taylor, executive director of Kids Forward. “They help Wisconsin maintain strong, vibrant communities and can further contribute to the livelihood of our state by being allowed to obtain driver licenses. By expanding this access to Wisconsin’s immigrant communities, lawmakers can make sure that our state is a great place to work, drive, and raise a family —f or everyone.”

The decision to block undocumented immigrants from obtaining driver licenses was made by Wisconsin state lawmakers, not by policymakers in Washington, D.C. That means that state lawmakers also have the power to reverse that decision and allow undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses, as lawmakers in 12 other states have done.

“This is a Wisconsin issue. These are Wisconsin families. These are Wisconsin roads. Wisconsin state lawmakers hold the power to remove barriers to driver licenses and make our state a more just and safe place,” said Taylor. “Passing the buck by claiming otherwise does a disservice to immigrant and non-immigrant families alike.”

According to research from Kids Forward, removing the prohibition on undocumented immigrants obtaining driver licenses would result in:

  • Improved family stability. An estimated 32,000 residents of Wisconsin would gain driver licenses, with 12,000 of those residents living with children who are U.S. citizens.
  • Additional workers with the qualifications that employers need. About 22,000 workers would obtain licenses, including 8,000 that work in the manufacturing sector and 7,000 that work in the leisure and hospitality industry.
  • Fewer uninsured drivers. The number of Wisconsin drivers who don’t have insurance would drop by an estimated 28,000. The share of drivers who are on the road who don’t have insurance would drop from 14.3 percent to 13.6 percent.
  • Lower insurance premiums. With fewer uninsured drivers, drivers with insurance would be less likely to make claims against their own insurance for accidents involving uninsured drivers. The result would be $16 million in premium savings for drivers who already have insurance.

“Some of our leaders have chosen to promote harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric and harmful policy proposals instead of rolling up their sleeves and working to build safe and just communities for immigrant families,” said Taylor. “This is our chance to give a boost to Wisconsin families, workers, communities, and businesses. We need to remove the barriers that keep immigrant families in the shadows and living in fear.”

Read the report here: Widen the Road: Removing Barriers to Driver License Eligibility Will Improve Safety, Support Families, and Boost Businesses.

Or read the one-page fact sheet that summarizes the findings co-released by Kids Forward and Voces de la Frontera:

English: Widen the Road: Allowing All Immigrants Access to Driver Licenses Is a Win for Wisconsin

Español: Comparten las Calles: Ampliando el Acceso a las Licencias de Conducir Sería una Ganancia para Wisconsin

Wenona Wolf is communication and development manager of Kids Forward. Learn about the Madison-based organization at kidsforward.net.

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