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Unlicensed Drivers in Los Angeles – Recent Bill May Change Liability Issues

by on March 4, 2015 » Add the first comment.

In California, like all other states, driving without a license is a criminal offense punishable by law. However, unlike in other states, unlicensed drivers continue to be one of the biggest problems California faces, and legislation continues to look for ways to fight back. An article from the LA Times states that there are an estimated two million unlicensed drivers in California.

In 2013, a report that collected data over 23 years showed that drivers without a license were 2.73 more times as likely to be in a fatal car accident.  Fatal crashes in California involving unlicensed drivers have increased by over 49% since 1998. Additionally, an AAA study found that over 20% of motor vehicle related deaths were due to crashes involving an unlicensed driver. Though traffic fatalities nationwide have been decreasing, California’s unlicensed driver fatalities have actually increased.

Policies enacted in 2012 may have further exacerbated the issue. The Special Order 7 policies allowed for the early release of impounded vehicles to unlicensed drivers as long as they could provide proof of insurance, a valid ID, and no prior unlicensed driving convictions. Advocates opposing the law have been trying to get it thrown out since its enactment, claiming that it makes it easier for unlicensed immigrants to drive.

What Rights Do Licensed Motorists Have?

It is more than likely that licensed motorists will at some point be involved in an accident with an unlicensed driver. In the event of an accident, it is important to understand the current laws.

Unfortunately, whether or not a driver is licensed has no bearing on determining who is at fault for the accident. In the event of an accident with an unlicensed driver, liability falls on the local government. The AAA study found that insurance companies paid out more than $600 million in claims related to unlicensed drivers, which in turn affects taxpayers and insurance rates.

An accident with an unlicensed, and therefore uninsured, motorist will only be covered if the policyholder purchased uninsured motorist protection. Even with that insurance, if uninsured motorist collisions are covered, the policyholder will have to prove that the accident was not his or her fault.

If suing for personal injury, the victim will have to claim gross negligence and be able to prove it. Of course, this is with the hope that the other driver has even stayed around after the collision. A staggering 51.2% of unlicensed drivers flee the scene of the accident.

What is Being Done About This Issue?

Assembly Bill 60, in effect as of January this year, allows for undocumented immigrants to apply for a license. Applicants will have to undergo written tests and driving tests in order to get their licenses. The bill prohibits governments from using the information gathered to report citizenship status, so immigrants do not have to fear deportation.

The passage of this bill is a bit controversial, but it seems to be better than the alternative of continuing to “allow” unlicensed drivers on the road. With this bill, drivers and passengers are much safer. If there is an accident with an undocumented driver, he or she will be much less likely to flee the scene of the accident if there is no fear of deportation, meaning the accident can be properly reported.

Citizens should consider the positive effects that the bill should have on liability issues. California state law requires that all drivers carry liability insurance. All immigrants who wish to obtain a license will now also be required to have insurance. In theory, this will make the roads safer and may even decrease the number of hit and run accidents.

Find more like this: Premises Liability and Injuries

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