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Providing driver's licenses to unauthorized immigrants in California improves traffic safety

Jens Hainmueller
Duncan Lawrence
Hans Lueders
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Several states have experimented with more inclusive policies toward immigrants. There is little empirical evidence related to their impact. Our study examines the short-term traffic safety effects of one of the largest-scale state policies focused on the integration of unauthorized immigrants: California’s extension of driving privileges to unauthorized immigrants. We find that this policy did not increase the total number of accidents or the occurrence of fatal accidents, but it did reduce the likelihood of hit and run accidents, thereby improving traffic safety and reducing costs for California drivers. Our findings have important implications for policymakers: providing unauthorized immigrants with access to driver’s licenses can create positive externalities for the communities in which they live.