Business Leaders Call for Driver’s License Reforms

Business Leaders Call for Driver’s License Reforms

April 15, 2024 – Washington, D.C. – Last week, business leaders, policy experts, nonprofit advocates, and community leaders joined together to call for an end to debt-based driver’s license suspensions. Hosted by Fines & Fees Justice Center, the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice, and Uber, the event highlighted the critical criminal and economic justice reform that would expand the workforce and strengthen the economy.

Priya Sarathy Jones, Deputy Director of the Fines & Fees Justice Center, opened the event by outlining the impact of a driver’s license suspension. “Every year, millions of Americans’ lives are impacted when they cannot afford to pay a ticket. In nearly half of all U.S. states, if you cannot afford to quickly pay a traffic ticket, toll violation, or other imposed fine or fee, your driver’s license will be suspended. That leads to an impossible choice: you can either stop driving, and risk losing your job, or you can continue to drive and risk arrest or long-term incarceration. Debt-based suspensions may be the fastest and most common way people get dragged into the criminal justice system – often with no way out.”

Over 85% of Americans drive to work – meaning a suspended driver’s license can cut off access to a person’s job and leave them unable to pay to have their license restored. With employers across the country struggling to find quality talent, pushing qualified individuals out of the workforce through suspensions has a dramatic, and detrimental, impact on local and state economies. For this reason, companies of all sizes are backing efforts to end debt-based driver’s license suspensions.

“When society thrives and people thrive, businesses thrive,” said Michele Blackwell, Senior Public Policy Manager for Uber. “Supporting policies that ensure people are not burdened with debt, that they are not refused a driver’s license, and that they have access to transportation, ultimately helps society, which ultimately helps businesses.”

In a poll of business owners conducted by Small Business Majority, 71% identified DLS from unpaid fines and fees as a detriment to finding quality talent. 67% agreed that policy solutions need to be implemented to reduce these barriers of access to transportation to get to work.

“Businesses have an essential role to play in creating opportunities for people with debt-based driver’s license suspensions, and for lowering the barriers that create them in the first place,” said Maha Jweied, CEO of the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice. “Ending debt-based driver’s license suspensions will keep talented individuals in the workforce, thereby strengthening the economy and improving community safety. I’m proud to join with so many incredible advocates in backing this effort.”

Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) highlighted the broad support for the Driving For Opportunity Act (D4OA), bipartisan legislation he is co-sponsoring with Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) which would compel states to end the practice of suspending licenses for unpaid fees.

“Suspending the driver’s licenses of people just because they’re poor and can’t pay fines or fees is cruel and counterproductive. Law enforcement leaders from across the country have called for the passage of this bill. Ultimately, this is work that has to be done state by state – which is why the groups dedicated to this work are so essential.”

Is your organization interested in helping impacted people regain the freedom to drive, work and care for their families? 

The Free to Drive campaign is backed by a coalition of over 150 ideologically diverse organizations 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. Tell us about your interest in becoming a member of the Free to Drive coalition using this form or get in touch at info@freetodrive.org.

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