On Dec. 1, just days after President Obama made his historic immigration reform announcement that protects about 5 million from deportation, thousands of undocumented immigrants in the state of Connecticut made appointments with the Department of Motor Vehicles. That’s because the New England state began the first phase of its “Drive Only” license program at the beginning of December 2014.
Last year, a law was passed by the Connecticut legislature and signed by the governor that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses. The first phase went into effect Dec. 1, allowing those interested to begin scheduling their appointments online to sit for the written driving test. Applicant will be able to take these tests at the start of 2015.
The aim of this change is to ensure that more of the drivers on the road – whether they have American citizenship or not – are properly registered and insured, as DMV spokesman Bill Seymour told CTNewsJunkie.
“It’s going to bring more vehicles into compliance that are being driven out there,” Seymour. “It has an effect on folks who have an accident or a crash and find that the vehicle involved wasn’t insured. It helps keeps everybody safe on the roads.”
While the DMV can’t accurately predict the number of people who will be eligible to apply for the “Drive Only” program, the interest has proven to be immense. Nearly 5,400 people scheduled appointments, and a total of 33,000 visitors made their way to the program’s webpage on the DMV site.
“That’s huge,” Seymour said. “We never get anything near that on any given day for anything. That tells us there’s a lot of people looking at this information.”
To accommodate the massive number of applicants, the DMV has hired additional staff and limited the number of driving tests to 700 each week – efforts to reduce wait times once an applicant begins the testing process. The DMV has also provided extra training to employees and reinforced its computer system to handle the onslaught of applications.
Connecticut is not the only state to implement this type of program. In January 2015, along with California, the Constitution State will join eight others that have programs similar to “Drive Only.”
Those who pass the written test and receive a learners permit can take the driving test three months after gaining supervised practice behind the wheel in addition to completing eight hours of driving classes.