Immigration Issues

Unlicensed to Kill (2006)

While certain states allow illegal aliens to obtain licenses, others take no action as illegal aliens take to the roads without licenses. As traffic fatalities rise across the country, from accidents and hit-and-run incidents up 3.5 percent from 2000 to 20051 it is clear that the growing presence of illegal aliens is contributing to this problem.

Licensed to Kill

Ten states do not require lawful proof of presence for an applicant to obtain a driver’s license. These states are Hawaii, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.2 Despite this, in these 10 states 14.4 percent of those who cause traffic fatalities are not licensed or improperly licensed, compared to the national average of 13.6 percent.

Hit-and-Run Drivers

Approximately 20 percent of all car accidents nationwide involve a driver who lacks a valid license.3 In the ten states with the highest concentration of illegal immigrants, (according to FAIR’s most recent estimates: California, Texas, New York, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey and Colorado) 14.6 percent of driving fatalities are caused by an unlicensed or improperly licensed driver. Furthermore, the percentage of those killed by hit-and-run drivers is higher in these states, 6.1 percent compared the national average of 5.3 percent. Needless to say, because data on whether drivers were licensed or uninsured or inebriated can’t be collected on those who leave the scene of an accident, the data would likely show a higher incidence of unlicensed and uninsured drivers causing accidents if that data were available.

Below, a chart coding the number of hit-and-run fatalities per state illustrates the existence of a higher hit-and-run percentage in states with higher illegal alien concentrations. Even in the 10 states where illegal aliens are permitted to obtain driver’s licenses, the average percentage of hit-and-run accidents is 4 percent. Having a license certainly doesn’t create a law-abiding or safer group of drivers.

Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System, Department of Transportationm - FAIR ‘06

The Uninsured

Uninsured drivers are a growing problem across the country. The estimated national average for uninsured drivers involved in accidents in 2004 was 13.3 percent,4 up from 12.7 percent in 1999.5 However, the average share of uninsured drivers in the ten states where illegal immigrants are allowed to receive licenses is 13.9 percent. Even more telling, the average share of uninsured drivers involved in accidents in the top ten illegal immigrant states is a whopping 14.7 percent.

The Ethnic Divide

Hispanic and Latino drivers were killed by hit-and-run drivers in numbers disproportionate to their share of the population. They were 21.4 percent of fatalities in 2005, while this group only makes up 14 percent of the population. The higher fatality rates suggest that Hispanic and Latino drivers are more likely to live in a community or environment where hit-and-run accidents are more prevalent.

Not only can dangerous drivers put people around them at risk, they can also put themselves at risk. Data show that Native American and Hispanic or Latino drivers who died in traffic accidents were legally intoxicated 57 percent and 47 percent of the time respectively, compared to black, white and Asian drivers who averaged 35 percent. Fatally injured Hispanic or Latino and Native American drivers were less likely to hold a valid license compared to black, white or Asian drivers.

It is not a violation of the law to leave the scene of an accident in Mexico as it is in the United States.6 Thus it should not be surprising if Mexicans driving in the United States especially those here illegally and driving without a license or insurance and perhaps intoxicated are more likely to flee from the scene of a car accident than a U.S. driver.

Although many states bar illegal immigrants from receiving licenses, it is clear that in itself will not decrease the incidence of unlicensed, uninsured illegal alien drivers who are disproportionately involved in hit-and-run and other fatal accidents. To protect the American public better against the threat of accidents by illegal alien drivers, more stringent measure should be taken against unlicensed and uninsured illegal alien drivers especially those found driving while intoxicated included turning them over to immigration authorities for deportation.

For more information on legislative developments to increase driver’s license security please visit: Driver's License Security




[1] Department of Transportation. Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

[2] The New York Times. “Congress May Require Closer Scrutiny to Get a Driver’s License”. May 3, 2005

[3] AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety. “Unlicensed to Kill: The Sequel”. Jan. 2003

[4] Road and Travel Magazine. “Uninsured Drivers: State by State Stats from 1999-2005”. 2006. Data was calculated by using a ratio of insurance claims made by individuals who were injured by uninsured drivers to claims made by individuals who were injured by insured drivers.

[5] The Insurance Research Council. “Uninsured Motorists”. 2006 Edition

[6] San Jose Mercury News. “Driver escapes charges in death: Victim’s Family Angry after Hit-and-Run incident that killed Gilroy teen on vacation in Mexic”. Mar. 25, 2005 “According to Commander Carlos Perez of the Playa del Carmen (Mexico) Police Department, commenting on a hit-and-run accident that killed an American, the Mexican driver who later turned himself in, “…‘didn't notice when the person crossed the traffic lane, he couldn't help but run him over,’… [and Perez] noted that hit-and-run isn't considered a violation in Mexico.”

Updated: 9/06