FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 15, 2023
Contact: Felicia Montalvo, firstname.lastname@example.org
New Report: Why Debt-Based Driver’s License Suspensions Are a Drag on Florida’s Economy
Florida Loses Nearly $500 Million in Consumer Spending Annually Due to Counterproductive License Suspension Policies
Debt-Based License Suspensions Drive Up Auto Insurance Premiums for ALL Floridians
Today, the Florida office of the Fines and Fees Justice Center is releasing Stepping On The Gas: Accelerating Florida’s Economic Growth by Restoring the Freedom to Drive.
The report finds that hundreds of thousands of Floridians are being forced to drive without a legal license — and without insurance — solely because of debt. Analyzing county-level data from across the state, the report finds that over 700,000 Floridians have a suspended driver’s license — not because they are dangerous drivers, but simply because Florida punishes people by suspending their driver’s license when they cannot afford to make a fine or fee payment.
These debt-based license suspensions are exacerbating the statewide labor shortage, with critical jobs in trucking, construction, and hospitality going unfilled. In 2019 alone, Florida missed out on an estimated $491 million in consumer spending as a result of debt-based license suspensions.
Because of Florida’s suspension practices, all Floridians pay higher car insurance premiums — on average about $78 more per year. Florida has one of the highest rates of uninsured drivers in the country and is one of the five most expensive states for insuring a car, with premiums almost 61% above the national average.
Conservative lawmakers across the country are enacting legislative reforms to end license-for-payment policies. Since 2017, 22 states — including Texas, Utah, Mississippi, Idaho, Montana, and West Virginia — have all stopped or significantly curbed debt-based license suspensions.
“The justice system can and should punish people for breaking the law, but it also needs to give people the chance to work, pay their debt, and move on,” said Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform. “The status quo does not put public safety first; it traps people in a government debt system and wastes police time on tax collection. It is time for all states to end driver’s license suspension for court debt.”
In many states, conservative organizations like Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have led the reform efforts, driven by concerns about the economic and public safety harms wrought by debt-based license suspensions.
License suspensions make it far less likely that people will be able to pay their debts. Losing one’s license makes everyday tasks like getting to work almost impossible. In the counties analyzed in Stepping On the Gas, 77% of suspensions issued from 2016-2018 remained in effect as of 2019.
The report also finds that suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid fines and fees does not increase traffic or public safety. To the contrary, these license suspensions for unpaid fines and fees divert public safety resources from dangerous driving and serious crime. James Madison Institute and the Reason Foundation conservatively estimated that license suspensions for failure to pay cost the Florida courts over $40 million annually.
“Ending Florida’s license suspension problem will improve the state’s economy, ensure more drivers are insured, and better allocate public safety resources — making Florida a safer and more economically vibrant state,” said Sarah Couture, Florida Director at the Fines and Fees Justice Center.