Several years back, I was driving west on Route 9 in Wellesley. While stopped in the passing lane at a red light, my car was hit from behind. Since the light was still red, I got out to speak to the driver behind to suggest we both pull over to the nearby Mobil station to examine any damage and exchange papers. He stared at me, eyes wide. As the light turned green, I got back in my car and drove directly into the gas station to wait for him. Maddeningly, he took off and headed west. I concluded he must have been driving without a license. This doesn’t have to happen – and will be less likely as of next summer, because the state passed a law in May to allow Massachusetts residents here illegally to apply for a driver’s license.
Question Four on the November ballot asks voters if they approve, and count me among those who want that law to stay on the books. Why shouldn’t every single driver, regardless of immigration status, be required to have a license, pass a test to prove ability to get behind the wheel, and carry insurance? Why shouldn’t every one of us be assured that all other drivers know the rules of the road, and, whether or not they always obey those rules, pay into the system through insurance premiums, license and registration fees? The answer is obvious to me: of course they should.
Governor Baker, usually a pragmatist, vetoed the law, (which will be administered by the Registry of Motor Vehicles), and the legislature overrode his veto. His concern was that driver’s licenses would enable undocumented residents to vote, but there’s no evidence to support that. The RMV already provides licenses to foreigners who are here legally, and they’re not voting. Nor does the Secretary of State doesn’t expect any problems. The Massachusetts law still requires applicants to provide two documents proving their identity. Think foreign passport or I.D. card, foreign driver’s license, certificate of marriage or divorce, plus photograph and date of birth. There are no reports of problems experienced in the 17 other states that have enacted such driver’s license laws.
Having a driver’s license isn’t a perk. It would enable thousands of people in Massachusetts to go to medical appointments, take their kids to school, go to their jobs and to drive there more safely. But those who refuse to support undocumented residents getting driver’s licenses for the sake of such convenience should still vote yes on Q. #4 for their own safety and protection.