Allowing immigrants to get drivers licenses ensures they’ll be fit to use the roads and that their information will be available in the event of an
Allowing immigrants to get drivers licenses ensures they'll be fit to use the roads and that their information will be available in the event of an accident. (Julio Cortez)

The long debate about whether to allow people living in the United States illegally to apply for driver's licenses is not about illegal immigration. It's about the safety of our roads.

Confusion about the point of all this is rife. The headline above an online report about a California Assembly proposal to expand undocmented immigrants' access to driver's licenses, which passed in May, read: "Bill would give licenses to those in US illegally."

No — licenses wouldn't be given to undocumented immigrants any more than they're given to U.S. citizens. Everybody must pass written and driving tests to earn licenses. This certifies you know the rules of the road and how to operate a vehicle, and means you can be identified after an accident.

The most important effect of allowing undocumented immigrants to go through this process is that more people who probably are driving cars and trucks anyway will be doing so safely, for the benefit of themselves, their passengers, other motorists and pedestrians.

Some opponents of the driver's license bill argue that a license confers a sort of legal status on people who are in the United States illegally. Well, it has been said before, but it's worth saying again: Foreigners being allowed to drive here doesn't make them legal U.S. residents any more than Americans being allowed to drive in France makes them French.

There are many things undocumented immigrants shouldn't be given, but the obligation to prove their fitness to use a vehicle isn't one.