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Providing driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants in California improves traffic safety
Journal Article

The integration of immigrants presents a major challenge for policymakers in the United States. In an effort to improve integration, several US states recently have implemented laws that provide driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants. These new laws have sparked widespread debate, but we lack evidence on the traffic safety impact of these policies. We examine the short-term effects of the largest-scale policy shift, California’s Assembly Bill 60 (AB60), under which more than 600,000 licenses were issued in the first year of implementation in 2015 alone. We find that, contrary to concerns voiced by opponents of the law, AB60 has had no discernible short-term effect on the number of accidents. The law primarily allowed existing unlicensed drivers to legalize their driving. We also find that, although AB60 had no effect on the rate of fatal accidents, it did decrease the rate of hit and run accidents, suggesting that the policy reduced fears of deportation and vehicle impoundment. Hit and run behaviors often delay emergency assistance, increase insurance premiums, and leave victims with significant out of pocket expenses. Overall, the results suggest that AB60 provides an example of how states can facilitate the integration of immigrants while creating positive externalities for the communities in which they live.

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