Insurers: Immigrant licenses create safer roads

About 45,000 remain unlicensed

Keywords: Illegal immigrants,

DENVER – The Colorado DMV is chipping away at the estimated 45,000 immigrants who are now eligible for a state-issued driver’s license.

It’s been almost a month since the state began issuing driver’s permits to them, and members of the state’s insurance industry say immigrants aren’t the only people to benefit. Angela Thorpe, public relations and company spokeswoman with State Farm Insurance, says the education and testing process is valuable to everyone on the road.

“Ensuring that all drivers have access to auto insurance is going to help control costs, and that licensed drivers have greater awareness of the rules of the road, promotes safer driving,” Thorpe says.

The availability of immigrant licenses comes as a result of the Colorado Road and Community Safety Act, signed into law this year. According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, the DMV offices processing immigrant driver’s licenses have the capacity of 155 appointments a day statewide. Only five of the DMV offices in the state are accepting applications.

The League of Women Voters of Colorado supports the availability of the permits, but is concerned about the scarcity of locations that offer testing. At 155 appointments a day statewide, Bobbie Heisterkamp, president of the League in Colorado, is concerned about the amount of time it will take to make sure all immigrant drivers are properly trained.

“There are too few places where they can make appointments and actually carry through,” Heisterkamp says. “It’s like a big bottleneck. How are they possibly going to get through 45,000 people?”

Thorpe says the license program benefits everyone.

“It’s in everyone’s best interest for drivers to be trained, tested and insured,” she says. “Not only creating safer roads, but also helping control the costs.”

The issued license will bear a slightly different banner than the standard Colorado driver’s license. Those who hold the license will not be able to use them as valid federal identification, for voting or state benefits.