Archive for Monday, August 16, 2010

1 in 10 fatal crashes involves unlicensed driver

August 16, 2010


— Kansas officials say it’s a maddening when someone who has no driver’s license is involved in a fatal crash, but they’re not sure how to fix the problem.

The Kansas Department of Transportation says that for the past decade, roughly 10 percent of all fatal accidents in the state each year involves an unlicensed driver.

In 2008, the latest year for complete data, 40 of the state’s 385 traffic deaths involved a driver without a license. That same year, 1,482 people suffered injuries in such accidents, The Wichita Eagle reported Sunday.

State Sen. Les Donovan, a Wichita Republican, said fatal crashes involving unlicensed drivers are an outrage, but there’s not a lot that can be done to prevent them.

“We’re always working on a fix,” Donovan said. “It’s more than vexing. If there’s a fix out there that would work, we would know about it.”

Phil Journey, a former state senator who now is a Sedgwick County District Court judge, said the immediate reaction many people have to the problem of unlicensed drivers is to call for impounding more vehicles, raising fines and putting more people in jail.

But those aren’t really workable solutions, both Journey and Donovan told the newspaper.

The current maximum penalty for driving without a license is six months in a county jail and a $1,000 fine, but Journey said the typical penalty is five days in jail and a $200 fine.

“We do not have enough jails” to house all the violators, Donovan said. “And we’re not going to build enough jails because the cost” is unacceptable to taxpayers.

“Maybe that sounds a little crass and uncaring, but it’s not.”

He said it may sound reasonable to raise fines, “but they won’t pay. They don’t have the money. They’re not paying the fines that are in place today.”

He said they wouldn’t pay the higher fines, either.

“How can you punish someone who has nothing to take away?” Donovan said.

And as for impounding vehicles, Journey said courts have some ability to do that as a result of drunken-driving convictions, but not for license violations.

Besides, other issues would arise if the state started taking people’s cars away.

“We don’t have any place to put the cars ... and the procedure is very cumbersome to order the impoundment ... and order a tow truck to pick up the vehicle. I have ordered impoundment in the past, but it’s difficult to enforce.

“If all the courts in Sedgwick County impounded all the DUI cars, I think we’d fill up the parking lot of the Kansas Coliseum pretty quickly.”

Donovan also said that if a violator’s vehicle is taken away, innocent family members can be deprived of transportation.

Journey said state budget restraints also are contributing to people not having licenses. The Kansas Department of Transportation’s phone number people can call to see if their license is suspended, and how to get it reinstated, gets answered only three days a week because of budget cuts.

Often drivers who get into trouble compound their problems by not paying fines, meeting court dates or updating their addresses, said Carmen Alldritt, director of vehicles for the Department of Revenue.

“Traffic tickets don’t go away,” she said. “Just take care of it from the beginning.”


imastinker 7 years, 10 months ago

Conclusion: State Rep Donovan doesn't want to enforce our laws and needs to find a job elsewhere.

napoleon969 7 years, 10 months ago

State senators (Donovan) and representatives do not enforce the law; they enact it. Enforcement is up to city police, county sheriffs and the highway patrol.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 10 months ago

What percent of the unlicensed drivers are in this country illegally?

appleaday 7 years, 10 months ago

It's more likely that they've lost their license because of DUIs.

ivalueamerica 7 years, 10 months ago

it is dangerous to interrupt one of snaps fantasies with reality..he does not respond well.

Ceallach 7 years, 10 months ago

Snap, Snap, Snap, why must you be such a hater? :D

kansasmutt 7 years, 10 months ago

I would bet 20% of that 10% are illegals. 50% are DUI jerks and the remaining 30% Cell phone jerks and just stupid people. The fix, evolution, to weed out the stupid DUI jerks and the cell phone users and stupid people. As for the illegals, we have borders to stop them.

Stuart Evans 7 years, 10 months ago

but evolution takes thousands of years to get results... and frankly, those that tend to break the rules generally procreate more than those who obey them. This is evolution in the wrong direction.

notajayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

Darwin's theory breaks down when it comes to humans. Theoretically, intelligence is a trait that would be valuable to the survival of the species, and those in possession of such a trait would live longer and have more offspring, eventually leading to intelligence being a dominant characteristic.

But we all know the smart ones ain't the ones doing all the breeding. The ones doing all the breeding are the ones who can't figure out the instructions on a condom package.

Unfortunately, our interference with the natural selection process compunds the problem. We use far too many warning labels. The ones that aren't bright enough to keep their head out of the towel loop in the restroom should be removed from the gene pool before they can reproduce!

tokenshi 7 years, 10 months ago

Not to state the obvious, but 100% of fatal crashes involve cars. This is the problem.

We seem to be one of the only countries who view owning cars as a god given right. I think switching our focus to awesome forms of mass transit (shinkansen style trains in between cities etc.) would be a good start in general. Less people in cars, the better.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 10 months ago

As soon as we have Japan's awesome population density, we can have their awesome trains.

notajayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

Not to state the obvious, but 100% of fatal crashes involve people. This is the problem. If we do away with people, we'll have no more fatal car accidents.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 10 months ago

That would be totally excellent. (having a Bill & Ted flashback)

Ceallach 7 years, 10 months ago

tokenshi, in Europe you can drive through several countries in a day . . while here, we can't even drive across Texas in a day. You are comparing apples and oranges.

gccs14r 7 years, 10 months ago

Please don't ever make me take a road trip with you. I can make it to Tucson from here in a day. It'd be beyond maddening to not even get across Texas in one.

Ceallach 7 years, 10 months ago

You have my word that you will never have to (or get to) take a road trip with me.

Kelly Johnson 7 years, 10 months ago

The way to figure out a solution is to have more information. Of the 10% that are unlicensed drivers, why are they unlicensed? Does that mean they haven't ever had a license, or that they had one and it is overdue to be renewed, or that they have had their licenses suspended or revoked due to repeated traffic violations?

But...probably the simplest way to solve this problem would be to retroactively issue them licenses.

I'm kidding about that last part, in case you didn't already realize that.

notajayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

"The way to figure out a solution is to have more information."

Are you new here?

Let me explain how things work on the LJW message boards - nobody wants "more information" before posting a critical comment!

And what is this "solution" thing of which you speak?

lionheart72661 7 years, 10 months ago

Kansasmutt..why are they all jerks? you're going to sit there and tell me that you never talked on your cell phone while driving? And if you drink you're going to tell me you never had a couple and got behind the wheel of your car? But beyond that only 10% is by unlicensed drivers that still makes 90% that are in accidents that are licenced. What is the percentage of elderly and inexperienced youths that are involved. Get those numbers then you can set your new assumption numbers.

Stuart Evans 7 years, 10 months ago

and as soon as they have licenses.. the accident rate will go down. see how easy this is!

beaujackson 7 years, 10 months ago

Confiscating cars will solve the problem.

notajayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

"1 in 10 fatal crashes involves unlicensed driver"

Wow! That guy's been busy!

darthvedder 7 years, 10 months ago

Considering one can only be either licensed or unlicensed, the more disturbing statistic seems to be '9 out of 10 fatal crashes involves a licensed driver".

Maybe they should spend there time figuring out why people who are deemed by the state to be able/responsible/skilled enough to drive a car are causing 90% of fatal crashes.

notajayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

Because there's more of them?

Also, I think the story talks about being involved in a fatal crash, not causing them. It's possible for an unlicensed driver to be following all the rules of the road (and they certainly have more incentive to avoid being pulled over) and still get killed by a licensed driver who ran a stop sign.

darthvedder 7 years, 10 months ago

Sorry - 90% of fatal crashes "involve" a driver licensed by the state.

The problem I have with a (non)story like this is the lack of substance. They offer a potentially disturbing statistic about an undefined group of 'others' - implied here to be drunk drivers, illegal immigrants, and/or all-around-no-good-lawbreakers - without explaining what percentage of that ten percent had their licenses revoked for being unsafe drivers as opposed to a revocation for not paying a fine, letting insurance lapse, etc.

If you learned to drive like I learned to drive, you spent hours behind the wheel next to a parent before going to take the driver's test. Meaning, if you passed, you were by state standards fully capable of driving before being licensed. Additionally, if you or I were to have our driver's licenses revoked today, we would not suddenly lose the ability to drive safely. Licensure is irrelevant to driving ability. The statistic (and subsequent story) is irrelevant. But it will surely spark some degree of feigned outrage by irrational simps who will not let reality get in the way of their scapegoating.

notajayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

Agreed. It's the scapegoat-flavor of the day. 10% of fatal crashes involve people on cell phones, 10% of fatal crashes involve people who've been drinking, 10% of fatal crashes involve people that had their hair cut within the past 72 hours ...

The category you left out, incidentally, besides those who lost their license for other than safety-related issues, is those who let their license expire, or never had one.

gccs14r 7 years, 10 months ago

All licenses now have a mag stripe on the back. Have the auto manufacturers install a mag stripe reader that prevents starting the vehicle without insertion of a valid license. It won't fix the problem right away, but it will fix it over time as older cars come off the road. It will also serve as another layer of theft deterrence.

notajayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

Or it will lead to an increase in drivers license theft.

The people who are willing to drive without a license are probably not opposed to finding a way to illegally defeat such an interlock, either.

notajayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

No disagreement. But we could accomplish the same thing without the need to make (yet another) modification to all the cars we own by making it a jailable offense to drive without a license.

gccs14r 7 years, 10 months ago

According to the story, it already is a jailable offense, but they don't have enough jail space to hold all of the offenders. With the license reader, they'll have to be guilty of more than just driving without a license to get caught driving, so it'll be easier to justify making enough jail space for them. It'll also cut down on thefts of opportunity, since there will be a need not only for physical access to the vehicle, but also for a valid ID to make it go. The owner could actually code the vehicle to accept only certain IDs, making it impossible for a kid with a new license to take a parent's car without permission.

Another advantage of license readers is that they could also work with graduated licensing, enforcing HP restrictions imposed by the State by instructing the vehicle computer to permit only so much power and speed depending on the license one has earned. This would cut down on stupid teenager stunts like doing burnouts in the parking lot.

notajayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

I understand what you're saying, but even when you throw in some kind of charge for defeating the interlock, it still amounts to driving without a license. What I meant by 'jailable' was something that would actually put someone in jail; having a law on the books that says you can get 6 months is academic when you have no room in your correctional facilities (or, more accurately, in your corrections budget) for non-violent offenders. Heck, they're barely locking up DUI offenders these days. So unless you make it a felony and put it on a par with offenses they're actually locking people up for, it's a moot point HOW they get caught.

notajayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

"Journey said state budget restraints also are contributing to people not having licenses. The Kansas Department of Transportation’s phone number people can call to see if their license is suspended, and how to get it reinstated, gets answered only three days a week because of budget cuts."

Seems like they should be able to automate that some, e.g. a website where one could check.

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