Progress on License Reinstatement Policy

Sunday, December 18, 2011 | access to driving | Margy's Blog & Updates | News

Here’s a great new article citing The Mobility Agenda and making the case for reducing barriers to driving by lowering fees for reinstatement after suspension for non-driving offenses. 

Revoking a license for non-driving offenses does not only hurt an individual, but can cause serious side effects in our communities.


Rep. Stark's Leg Director: Why We Asked about License Suspensions

Monday, March 01, 2010 | Margy's Blog & Updates

Here is a great letter from Jeff Hild, Representative Stark’s legislative director, explaining the significance of the new GAO report on License Suspensions and Jobs. 




Today the GAO released the report: “License Suspensions for Nondriving Offenses: Practices in Four States That May Ease the Financial Impact on Low-Income Individuals” (GAO-10-217) that your organization may find interesting. Representatives Pete Stark, Jim McDermott, and Gwen Moore requested the report out of concern that low-income individuals and their families may be disproportionately impacted by policies that suspend driver’s licenses based on non-driving offenses. 


In many communities, access to an automobile is essential for economic mobility and the ability to obtain and retain employment.  The GAO found that states suspend driver’s licenses for a variety of reasons that are not directly related to driving safety.  Some of these suspension policies are the result of federal mandates (in the case of child support enforcement) and others (such as suspensions for failing to pay fine) are state prerogatives.  Unfortunately, little is known about the effectiveness of suspension policies and who is most impacted and the GAO found that this data is not collected or aggregated at either the federal or state level.  The GAO report does examine promising projects and policies in four states that help to ameliorate the negative economic effects of license suspension on low-income individuals.


The important themes of the GAO report include:

·      The lack of information available on the effectiveness of suspensions for non-driving offenses and the economic impact that license suspensions have on low-income people and their communities.  Data from New Jersey showed that suspension rates were four times higher for drivers in extremely low-income ZIP codes;

·      States and local jurisdictions have flexibility under existing law to use suspension as a last resort and ameliorate the economic impact of suspensions through exemptions, payment assistance, license reinstatement support, and other means;

·      Promising programs exist in some areas to assist low-income individuals who are facing suspension or have already had their license suspended; however, the lack of information on suspension makes it difficult to assess the need for these programs and there are numerous challenges in implementing and bringing to scale effective programs.


You can access the GAO report here:


If you have questions, please contact Jeff Hild (Rep. Stark), Laura Bernsten (Rep. McDermott), or Eyang Nyambi (Rep. Moore).  





Jeff Hild

Legislative Director

Rep. Pete Stark (CA-13)



Driving to Work - Doing Good for Our Economy

Sunday, February 28, 2010 | Margy's Blog & Updates


Our official research arm – the GAO – just released a new report about access to driving and license suspension. Thanks to Representatives Pete Stark, Jim McDermott, and Gwen Moore for their interest in the impact of state policy and practice on local economic conditions and economic license suspensions!

Mobility Agenda readers know that we encourage policy-maker focus on access to driving and the impact of license suspension on communities, employers, and workers. We’ve hosted a national roundtable and published our research on economic license suspensions. Read more about this topic here.

We’re pleased to see this interest in Congress. Read the report to learn more about promising alternatives to suspension in some places. 

Low-wage workers with access to a reliable car are more likely to work, earn more, and work more hours. So, lack of a driver’s license is a barrier to work. In addition, some jobs – especially in construction and health care – require a license of all applicants. For workers without a license, jobs may be inaccessible because a license is a prerequisite, or because a car is the only means of access to a job far from home. The most common reasons for license suspension and revocation are for non-driving offenses, as states have moved to use the license as a means to enforce other goals and raise revenue. The Mobility Agenda studies strategies to reduce the impact of license loss for economic reasons.



Driver's License or Good Citizen's Card?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008 | Margy's Blog & Updates

We have said it before – access to driving is crucial for good jobs, healthy communities, and a strong economy. In June we published “Access to Driving and License Suspension Policies for the Twenty-First Century Economy,” highlighting the negative economic and social impacts of license suspension policies. People are taking notice. 
Sreya Sarkar, Director of the Asset Ownership Project at Cascade Policy Institute, wrote the following article featured today in Oregon’s Statesman Journal:


Driver’s license or good citizen’s card?

 The driver’s license was originally created to ensure public safety by setting standards for driving competency. Accordingly, license suspensions were a legal mechanism to remove unsafe drivers from the road. 

But in the last fifteen years, federal and state lawmakers have viewed the license as a “good citizen” trophy and sought to suspend it for a number of non-driving-related reasons.

The list of non-driving misdemeanors resulting in license suspension includes failure to pay parking fines and failure to appear in court, even for reasons completely unrelated to driving. State agencies are increasingly using driver’s license suspension to enforce laws and public policies that have nothing to do with driving or even motor vehicles. The problem is that suspension of driving privileges makes it much more difficult to keep or find a job, and thus makes it even harder for individuals to comply with whatever rule was broken in the first place.

In Oregon, as in many other states, more than fifty non-driving-related offenses can lead to a driver’s license suspension. Some typical non-driving-related reasons that lead to suspension are: failure to comply with court orders, failure to appear in court, failure to pay child support, and failure to pay certain fines.

In a recent report, the Mobility Agenda (a Washington D.C.-based think tank that seeks to stimulate support for strengthening the labor market and benefiting workers) discusses how driver’s license suspension can have negative economic and social effects, especially if a license is suspended for non-driving-related reasons. Local communities, employers and employees experience serious negative consequences as a result of license suspensions, including unemployment, lower wages, and fewer employment opportunities and hiring choices. Some employers, particularly in the construction and healthcare fields, require a driver’s license as a precondition of employment, either because driving is part of the job or as a way to screen applicants.

In addition to these negative effects, other costs can be associated with license suspension, like the expensive license reinstatement process that includes court appearances and legal assistance. In some states, automobile insurance costs automatically increase after a suspension, even if the suspension is for non-driving reasons. Low-income workers are likely to be disproportionately affected by license suspensions arising from inability to pay fines and fees. Suspending low-income workers‘ licenses can lead to additional economic distress both for employers and the extended community when people are unable to reach or to apply for jobs inaccessible by public transit. This is yet another barrier to a low-income worker’s economic opportunity and stable income.

The Mobility Agenda report also discusses state-level policy changes making a crucial impact in reducing license suspension for non-driving-related reasons. For example, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, community leaders succeeded in facilitating some statutory changes resulting in fewer license suspensions due to non-driving-related reasons. This change significantly decreased the number of drivers with suspended licenses in Milwaukee.

The driver’s license is a vital link to employment for many workers and should not be suspended for reasons unrelated to driving at the whim of policymakers who would like to convert the driver’s license into a “good citizen” card.