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Unlicensed drivers a menace
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Several studies conducted in past years by law enforcement agencies and the AAA Automobile Club indicate an alarming trend of motorists who drive that have never been issued a driver's license or are driving on suspended/revoked licenses. It is estimated that some one million motorists drive California highways and streets without valid drivers' licenses.

Twenty percent of fatal traffic collisions feature at least one motorist who did not have a valid driver's license. Moreover, it has been found that unlicensed drivers are 66 times more likely to be involved in hit-and-run collisions than those who are legally licensed.

The reasons why these violators drive without licenses are many. A large percentage of them lost their license because of DUI convictions and a significant percentage lost their license after being uninsured and involved in a collision. Some have their licenses suspended for failure to pay child support, others have amassed too many traffic citations, and there are those who are unable to obtain a driver's license due to their residency or citizenship status. Whatever the reason, the statistics clearly show that unlicensed/suspended motorists pose a public safety hazard because of their propensity for being involved in collisions and their likelihood for unlawfully leaving collision scenes.

From an enforcement perspective, I see the public safety justification for rigorous enforcement of drivers' license laws. The statistics support the idea that unlicensed drivers pose greater hazards to the motoring public. And curiously, some insurance companies will sell insurance policies to persons who have no driver's license, despite the fact that it is known that they are more likely to be involved in collisions and hit-and-run incidents. These insurance companies, perhaps, spread the risk among the rest of their policyholders by way of higher premiums. Regardless, it does seem odd that such insurance practices actually exist.

Many people have come to believe that driving is a right, and that in order to get by in this society, being able to drive is a necessity. I agree with the latter, but driving in California is a privilege, not a right at all, and motorists must do what is necessary to retain that privilege. Nevertheless, most people who have had their licenses suspended or revoked, or those who were never issued one, will continue to drive with the hopes of not getting caught.

Ceres police officers, as do most other law enforcement agencies in this region, rigorously enforce the drivers' license laws. By going through the licensing process, motorists are more likely to know the rules of the road, are more compelled to obtain insurance and in general, demonstrate a higher level of responsibility than those who break the law.

Section 14602.6(a) CVC gives a peace officer the authority to impound a vehicle for 30 days when the driver is unlicensed or found to be driving on a suspended license. Studies show that license provision violators who have had their vehicles towed and stored had 25 percent fewer crashes than those who did not; repeat offenders who had their vehicles impounded had 38 percent fewer crashes than those who did not. California law and the policy of the Ceres Police Department mandate police officers to impound any vehicle that is driven by someone who does not have a valid driver's license. For this reason, it is ill-advised to allow an unlicensed driver to drive your car. Regardless of whether you know that the person using your car does not have a valid license, as the vehicle owner, you will have full responsibility for all fees associated with the towing and storage of that vehicle. On average, the bill for a 30 day impound will range from $800-$1,200.

I am not oblivious to the fact that some people do not have the lawful means to obtain a valid driver's license. This situation is unfortunate and not of law enforcement's making. It would be inappropriate to differentially enforce the driver's laws based on the different reasons for a person not having a valid license. State law is clear with its intent to ban the operation of motor vehicles by unlicensed drivers; collision and hit and run statistics clearly support a rigorous enforcement stance.

Accordingly, this agency, along with the hundreds of others in this state, enforce this law without regard to the reasons a motorist may have for being unlicensed or for having a suspended/revoked driver's license. Violators will be cited and the vehicles they are driving (regardless of who owns it) will be towed according to law. We owe it to the law-abiding motoring public to enforce these laws for pure safety reasons and keep the enforcement of law blind to political, economic or racial issues.