It is estimated that over 11 million people in the United States today are undocumented immigrants and out of that number over 511,000 of that population live here in Illinois. Despite the fact they are not legal visitors or residents, these people purchase property, create businesses, work and drive on the state’s roads. Driving is considered a privilege and people who are issued driver’s licenses have taken a course on driver safety and studied the state’s road laws. Many undocumented immigrants are driving without formal training or understanding of these laws and this puts them at risk of getting into a car accident and harming others.
Last year, Illinois sought to improve road safety by providing a program that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license which is valid for up to three years. The program, called a temporary visitor driver’s license, requires undocumented immigrants to show the following:
- Proof of insurance
- Pass written driving test
- Pass road test
- Pass vision test
- Proof of residency in Illinois for at least one year
While the licenses make it legal for undocumented immigrants to drive, they cannot be used as a form of identification and they are color coded to indicate their difference from a regular driver’s license. Furthermore, these licenses are only for driving a car or motorcycle – they do not permit holders to operate commercial vehicles.
Since its launch, around 190,000 people have contacted the state to set up appointments to obtain the special license and over 85,000 people have received one. The program encourages immigrants to study driving rules in Illinois, thereby helping them understand what road signs mean and how to identify crosswalks. Immigrants can also sign up for driving courses that help them develop defensive driving skills, avoid engaging in dangerous behaviors such as distracted driving and tailgating, and how to navigate heavy traffic without putting themselves and others in danger.
Recently the Chicago Tribune pointed out that almost 800 traffic accidents occur in the state daily. In 2013, the state saw a 4 percent increase in crashes. Some believe this rise is due to the drop in gasoline prices which has encouraged people to drive more. Factors that contributed to the accidents include speeding, alcohol use, weather, wildlife on roadways and inexperience. Now that Illinois has opened a path for undocumented drivers to obtain a license, it is hoped that fewer accidents will be the result.