By Becky Straus, Legislative Director

We are pleased that today Governor Kitzhaber made the right call, directing the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to resume issuing driver licenses to young immigrants who qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, but the announcement highlights a broader, urgent need to shift the conversation.

The time is long overdue for policy makers to de-link access to driver licenses with an applicant’s ability to prove lawful presence in the country and instead recognize that obtaining a driver license should be solely dependent upon road safety factors. Does the person know the rules of the road? Is that person insured?

Applicants trying to obtain a driver license in Oregon must take a written test on traffic laws and practical test on the basic operation of a motor vehicle. These tests ensure that those behind the wheel understand fundamental traffic safety rules and are fit to be on the road. Vehicle owners are also required to obtain liability insurance. Oregonians already face rising costs to their automobile insurance because of uninsured drivers. Individuals who do not have a driver license cannot obtain automobile insurance.

The complicated issues surrounding immigration need to be addressed at a federal level and not through restricting access to driver licenses – a connection that has nothing to do with ability to drive and makes all of us less safe on the roads.

It is time for the 2013 Legislature to take action and restore driver license access to all Oregonians.