Free to Drive is a national effort to end debt-based licensing restrictions

More than half of U.S. states continue to suspend, revoke or refuse to renew driver’s licenses for fines and unpaid traffic, tolls, misdemeanor and felony charges. The result: Millions of people struggle to survive with debt-related driving restrictions simply because they couldn’t afford a fine or court fees – or because they missed a court hearing.

In 2019, over 100 ideologically diverse organizations launched Free to drive: a coalition united by the belief that restrictions on driving privileges should be reserved for dangerous driving, not to coerce debt payment or to punish people who miss a court appearance. Over the past five years, 22 states and DCs have passed reforms to reduce debt-based driving restrictions.

Which states have adopted reforms in 2021?

This year alone, the governors of 10 states – Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Utah and Washington – signed legislative reforms. But there is still work to be done. In our latest recap of reforms from 2021, we give advocates 10 key questions to assess current and future efforts.

Read our 2021 recap and key questions to assess current and future efforts>

Discover the Free to Drive campaigns interactive maps to see which states are still suspending for non-payment of fines and fees and for failing to appear at a court hearing. You can also see which states have adopted reforms and which have proposed legislation.

Get the facts about debt-based driving restrictions

Driver’s license suspensions are costing people their livelihood. 86% of Americans drive to work, and many jobs require a driver’s license. Without a permit, you cannot take your children to school, buy groceries or get health care. Many people have no choice but to continue driving, which means they risk more fines and costs, criminal conviction and incarceration.

The suspension of licenses reduces economic growth. People who can’t work or lose income due to a suspended license have less money to contribute to the economy and less money to pay their fines and upfront fees, which leaves them struggling with court debts for years.

License suspensions affect public safety. When law enforcement uses precious time to cite, arrest, impose fines and arrest people for driving with a license suspended due to fines and unpaid fees, they have less time to investigate and focus on crimes that put people’s lives in danger.

You can help us end this cruel practice in every state.

Poverty should never determine who is free to drive. But right now, millions of people lose their driver’s licenses simply because they can’t afford the fines and fees. Show your support for debt-based driving restrictions by signing up the Free to Drive petition in support of the Driving for Opportunity Act. Take action here.

Steering Committee and Free to Drive Coalition

The Free to Drive Steering Committee includes the American Civil Liberties Union, Civil Rights Corps, Fines and Fees Justice Center, JPMorgan Chase, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Right on Crime, Southern Poverty Law Center, Texas Appleseed and the Virginia Legal Aid Justice Center. See the full list of coalition members here.

Advocacy resources

Resources 2021

Driving for Opportunity Act 2021 Introduction and Explanation

Driving for Opportunity Act 2021 Full text of the bill

Letter of support for the Senate Opportunities Conduct Act of 2021

Graph of DLS 2017-2021 reforms: 14 States (Powerpoint) – Update on 03/01/2021

Graph of DLS reforms 2017-2021: 14 states (Twitter)– Updated on 03/01/2021

Resources 2020

Victories 2020: Reforms to the suspension of driving licenses

Explanation of the Driving for Opportunity law: problem, key points and summary of the invoice

Opportunities Conduct Act Full text of the bill

Letter to the Senate on the Driving for Opportunity law from the Free to Drive Coalition July 16, 2020

Letter of support for the Conduct for Expediency Act from 24 Attorneys General

Letter of Support for Conduct Law for Opportunities from 50+ Organizations

Factsheet: Poverty should never determine who is free to drive


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