Jim Guthrie ISJ

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BOISE — A bill to allow all drivers in Idaho, regardless of their immigration status, to obtain driving credentials after the proper training course was introduced Friday in the Idaho Legislature.

If it becomes law, Senate Bill 1132 would allow people without legal permanent residency in the U.S. to receive a Driver’s Authorization Card with proof of Idaho residency, such as a power bill and proof of person, such as a birth certificate.

“These limited requirements will help more people get the legal ability to drive, providing the potential to reduce burdens on the criminal justice system and reduce costs of judicial and law enforcement administration,” Sen. Jim Guthrie’s office said in a press release.

Guthrie, R-McCammon, who decided against introducing a bill like this last session, said the Driver Authorization Card program would generate revenue.

The cost of implementation would be offset by the $25 annual fee for people carrying the cards. In addition, vehicle registrations and titles are expected to bring $700,000 in additional funding over 30 months, Guthrie’s office said.

A study by the Office of Performance Evaluations found accidents with unlicensed drivers are three times deadlier than with licensed drivers, the average property damage claim involving an unlicensed driver is $22,000 higher than claims involving a licensed driver, and unlicensed drivers are 9.5 times more likely to flee the scene of a fatal accident.

“It’s critical that we find a way to get those who are driving, particularly on our rural roads in agricultural communities, a way to be properly trained,” Guthrie stated. “Studies from other states show that by doing this, we are minimizing accidents and hit and runs, and creating overall safety for everyone on the road.”

The study also found employment among immigrants without legal permanent residency increased by 1% when they had driving authorization. It also reported that studies show immigrants increased their weekly work hours after they received driving privileges.

Rick Naerebout, CEO of the Idaho Dairymen’s Association, previously told the Idaho Press that the association had been in discussions about licensing drivers without legal permanent residency.

“Our perspective is these individuals are on the road already, driving without licenses — that is not a surprise to anyone who has looked into this,” Naerebout said earlier this year. “With individuals on the road without licenses, it makes sense to us to have a process where they can go through the testing and be aware of the rules of the road and precautions.”

The bill introduced in the Senate State Affairs Committee and was referred to the Senate Transportation Committee for a hearing.

Rachel Spacek is the Latino Affairs and Canyon County reporter for the Idaho Press. You can reach her at rspacek@idahopress.com. Follow her on twitter @RachelSpacek.