An estimated 250,000 illegal immigrants drive on Illinois roads despite the fact they do not have a license, have not taken driver instruction or passed a driving test. "This is a safety issue that impacts every driver in Illinois and we should join together to take swift action to save lives," Governor Quinn said. "Making sure all motorists, regardless of their background, are licensed and insured will drive economic growth and ease the financial burden on all Illinois motorists."
The governor says that if half of the estimated 250,000 unlicensed immigrants became properly licensed and insured, Illinois insurance policy holders would save an estimated $46 million a year in premium payments. But the proposal does have critics who say such claims paint too rosy a scenario. New Mexico passed laws in 2003 allowing illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses, The state now has one of the highest rates of uninsured drivers in the country because many illegal immigrants can't afford to purchase it.
Illinois officials also claim New Mexico's law has reduced traffic accidents by unlicensed drivers. Critics say that's because there are fewer unlicensed drivers overall, and say there is no evidence the law has improved traffic safety overall. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is pushing repeal of the law because her state has also had a serious problem with fraud, with many out of state immigrants have illegally applied for and received driver's licenses from New Mexico under the program.
Quinn believes the benefits outweigh the risks, saying unlicensed drivers pose an enormous, yet preventable, safety risk for all Illinois drivers. He also cites studies have shown that immigrants who can drive legally are more likely to work, spend money and contribute to the economy.