NCLEJ and Partners Launch Driven by Justice Coalition to End Discriminatory Suspensions of Driver’s Licenses in New York
Today, NCLEJ, The Bronx Defenders, and the Fines & Fees Justice Center announced the launch of the Driven by Justice Coalition — a partnership of grassroots, economic justice and civil rights organizations, public defenders, and directly impacted people — to end the harmful, discriminatory, and counterproductive practice of suspending people’s driver’s licenses for not paying or answering a traffic ticket in New York State.
Between January 2016 and April 2018, New York issued nearly 1.7 million driver’s license suspensions for traffic debt. The widespread use of this policy has disproportionately impacted poor people and people of color in the state:
- Driver’s license suspension rates in New York are nearly nine times higher in the ten poorest communities compared to the ten wealthiest.
- In New York City, communities with the highest percent of people of color have suspension rates 2.5 times higher than communities with the smallest percent of people of color.
- In the rest of New York State, communities with the highest percent of people of color have suspension rates four times higher than communities with the smallest percent people of color.
Hundreds of thousands of low-income New Yorkers who cannot afford to pay tickets face an impossible choice between living without transportation that is crucial to providing for themselves and their families, or risking criminal charges and further debt by continuing to drive. The counterproductive policy creates a cycle of debt that helps fuel mass incarceration in the state.
The Coalition supports the passage of A07463/SO5348, which would achieve three primary goals: ending driver’s license suspensions for nonpayment of traffic tickets and for not appearing at traffic hearings; reinstating all driver’s licenses suspended for failure to pay or appear; and making affordable payment plans available.