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Permits for Undocumented Residents in NC Could Reduce Premiums, Make Roads Safer

Legislation proposed in North Carolina would offer driver's permits to undocumented residents. Supporters say it would reduce insurance premiums and make the state's roads safer. Credit: jade/morguefile.com
Legislation proposed in North Carolina would offer driver's permits to undocumented residents. Supporters say it would reduce insurance premiums and make the state's roads safer. Credit: jade/morguefile.com
August 20, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. - North Carolina could begin offering driver's permits to undocumented residents, if legislation (HB 328) introduced this spring is passed. While some oppose offering permits to people in the state without proper immigration documents, Dave Phillips, spokesperson with State Farm Insurance, says it comes down to safer roads and cheaper insurance premiums for everyone.

"When you have a licensed driver, the individual has gone through training for safety for the roadways," says Phillips. "They understand speed limits and start to establish even better safe-driving habits when they're behind the wheel, making it safe for all of us."

The legislation currently is being considered by the House Committee on Finance. If passed, North Carolina would follow more than a dozen states that have granted permits for undocumented residents.

As a result, many of those states have seen a reduction in traffic violations, hit-and-run accidents and improved insurance coverage. If passed, drivers would have to go through a thorough application process including a full background check and fingerprinting.

Carmen Rodriguez is from Mexico but has lived in Raleigh, North Carolina for 13 years. Because she's not eligible for a permit, every day as she takes her sons to soccer practice or goes to work, she says she's forced to break the law by getting behind the wheel. Earlier this year, Rodriguez received three traffic tickets for not having a permit.

"This situation has caused stress and anxiety for my whole family," she says. "When my children get in the car, they take every measure to ensure that police don't have a reason to ticket us."

William Porter Saenz, communications coordinator for El Pueblo, an organization that advocates for rights for immigrants, says Rodriguez and many of the other 100,000 undocumented drivers in North Carolina would prefer to abide by the law as they drive to work and school.

"Every time she gets ticketed for something that is not due to her fault in any way whatsoever, that's affecting her family," he says. "That's money that could go to providing food, going to the doctor, and it's being wasted on something that is really symbolic of a broken system we have."

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC