Los Angeles police chief Charlie Beck thinks that all Californians should be allowed to obtain state-issued drivers licenses -- even undocumented immigrants.
He made his position clear at a meeting with Los Angeles Times editors and reporters on Wednesday.
During the meeting, Beck acknowledged California's failure to put a stop to unlicensed driving. He suggested that issuing even "provisional" or "nonresident" licenses would have a huge impact on regulating the road while differentiating documented residents from the undocumented, a distinction that Beck believes would still be important.
Beck on driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants, from the LA Times:
Why wouldn't you want to put people through a rigorous testing process? Why wouldn't you want to better identify people who are going to be here? It doesn't make any sense to me. And we could increase safety on the roads. When you make things illegal you cause a lot of other things by chain reaction.
Those "other things" include a higher rate of uninsured drivers on the road and erratic driving behavior, which lead to more hit-and-run collisions.
A San Francisco Chronicle analysis of California statistics found that hit-and-run collisions accounted for 7.8 percent of traffic accident deaths in 2001 -- more than twice the national average, which was 3.8 percent at the time.
More recent reports show that there were 15,611 hit-and-run collisions in California that left 20,260 injured and 185 dead, according to a 2009 annual report from the California Highway Patrol [PDF].
The Los Angeles police chief has been more vocal on the issue of unlicensed driving in his effort to change the LAPD’s vehicle impound rules. Beck's proposed impound reforms would do away with the current standard of a 30-day vehicle impound and fines of up to $2,000 for all unlicensed drivers -- a burden that he thinks is unfair on undocumented immigrants, notes CBS.