New York Governor Eliot Spitzer finally raised the white flag today on his controversial plan to allow undocumented aliens to get a driver’s license, which he had argued would not only have made the roads safer, but have lowered insurance costs as well. The knee jerk hostility against immigration in general overwhelmed any intelligent discussion of his claim that there would be fewer uninsured drivers–a debatable point about which insurers were silent.
Newsday ran an article in its Oct. 23 edition (click here for the full story), which concluded that in two states that have made drivers’ licenses more readily available to undocumented immigrants recently, “the numbers of uninsured drivers have dropped sharply, but the results are mixed when it comes to safer roadways.”
Newsday reported a decline in fatal accident rates in Utah and a drop in uninsured motorists in both Utah and New Mexico–which both recently made Social Security numbers optional when applying for a driver’s license.
New Mexico, Newsday noted, “went from having one of the worst rates for uninsured motorists in the country, at 33 percent of all its drivers in 2003, to a rate of 11 percent, which falls below the national average of 14 percent, according to officials there.” (New York stands at 7 percent, the fourth-lowest in the nation, Newsday reported, in case you are interested.)
Newsday noted that six other states–Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Oregon and Washington–don’t require Social Security numbers for drivers’ licenses.
“In those six states, the picture is mixed regarding uninsured motorists, according to 2004 statistics from the Insurance Research Council, a trade group near Philadelphia,” Newsday noted. “Four fall below the national average of 15 percent, with Maine the lowest in the nation at 4 percent. Next is Maryland at 12 percent, Oregon at 12 percent and Hawaii at 13 percent. Two rank above the national average, with Michigan at 17 percent and Washington at 18 percent.”
However, even if New York had somehow gone forward with its controversial plan, and if it had indeed done the trick by getting more immigrants insured, it’s still not clear that savings to legal residents would have made much difference–certainly not enough to swing the political tide in Gov. Spitzer’s favor.
“While the governor has emphasized that drivers statewide would save $120 million under his plan,” Newsday reported, “actual savings from the highly debated policy change would be modest for most New York drivers, with reductions of $10 to $20 a year on average annual premiums of $1,000, according to data from the New York State Insurance Department.”
Such small potatoes would never overcome the stark terror too many Americans feel at the sight of anyone they think might not be from this country. It’s a shame we didn’t get a chance to debate the merits of the proposal before it was shouted down by the frightened masses.
Gov. Spitzer tried to save his proposal by coming back with a revised, three-tier plan, with those unable to produce the proper documentation eligible to get a much devalued license, but one which would at least have provided some documentation and helped make sure everyone actually driving was in fact insured.
But that scheme was doomed as well, not only because the overwhelming majority didn’t want illegal immigrants to get any form of license, but also because what illegal immigrant would want such a document–one which would certainly be a red flag for Homeland Security officials?
So illegal immigrants will continue to drive without the proper training or required license or insurance coverage, hoping an inadvertent fender-bender or missing a red light or stop sign doesn’t get them pulled over by police–and, most likely, handed over to federal immigration authorities for possible deportation.
What it won’t do is stop many illegal aliens from driving, that’s for sure.
What do you folks think about all this?