When drivers are caught breaking traffic laws, they generally must deal with the consequences of their actions. In some areas, however, the consequences for a relatively minor traffic violation and the associated costs affect the people who are least likely to be able to afford them.
For decades, the state of Illinois has been suspending the licenses of drivers with unpaid tickets for non-moving violations such as parking tickets, failed emissions tests, etc. However, the Illinois legislature has recently passed a bill that, if signed into law, will change how the state penalizes drivers.
Researchers found current Illinois traffic laws, particularly laws regarding ticket fines and vehicle impounding, contribute to putting large segments of minority communities into debt and bankruptcy.
In response, the License to Work Act was recently passed by the Illinois legislature. If it is signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the act would change the governmental practices responsible for imposing severe financial strain on drivers by:
Advocates of the License to Work Act point to data collected over recent years that shows that license suspensions tend to disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color.
Individuals who cannot afford to pay traffic tickets often rely on their vehicle to get to and from their jobs; if they cannot get to their job, ticketed individuals cannot earn the money to provide for themselves or pay off their tickets. Additionally, people with suspended licenses sometimes drive anyway, risking criminal charges and additional fines.
Lawmakers in Illinois approved the License to Work bill at the end of October, and the bill is now awaiting signature from Pritzker, who has voiced support the measure. The new law will go into effect in July, if signed.