State needs to address unlicensed drivers
A recent California Department of Motor Vehicles study found that unlicensed drivers are three times more likely to cause a fatal crash than licensed drivers.
While this may not be ground-breaking news, it does point to a growing concern that more and more drivers are driving with a suspended or revoked license, or no license at all, and those drivers are not trained or don’t care about their driving habits.
The study, using crash data over a 23-year period, found the largest percentage of unlicensed drivers involved in crashes were those aged 20 to 29. Also, for drivers 19 and younger involved in crashes, those who were unlicensed was four times higher than those who had suspended or revoked licenses.
In The Recorder’s story on the cost of traffic fines a few months ago, Judge Glade Roper raised concerns that the high price of traffic tickets is increasing the number of revoked licenses. However, it is not just the cost of tickets that is causing drivers to drive illegally. Obtaining a driver’s license, especially for young people, is expensive because behind the wheel driver’s training is required for those under 18 and that is no longer offered in the schools. It is expensive and many are forgoing the training and driving anyway, without a license.
Another cost deterrent to having a license or a registered vehicle is the smog check program. It is cheaper to pick up a clunker and drive it than to pay for a vehicle that can pass a smog inspection. Again, not having a license or not registering a vehicle is a way to get around complying with the law. And, you don’t need a license to purchase a vehicle.
Roper suggested that fines be made less costly so people can afford to pay them and remain in compliance with the law. We would agree, but are doubtful the Legislature will do anything since traffic fines have become a revenue source for the state.
However, as the study shows, having too many unlicensed drivers on the road is dangerous for everyone.