State Offices

Free to Drive: National Campaign to End Debt-Based License Restrictions

Free to Drive is a nationwide effort to end debt-based license restrictions

Currently, half of all U.S. states still suspend, revoke or refuse to renew driver’s licenses for unpaid traffic, toll, misdemeanor and felony fines and fees. The result: millions of people are struggling to survive with debt-related driving restrictions just because they could not afford a court fine or fee — or because they missed a court hearing.

In 2019, over 100 ideologically diverse organizations launched Free to Drive: a coalition united by the belief that restrictions on driving privileges should be reserved for dangerous driving, not to coerce debt payment or to punish people who miss a court appearance. In the last five years, 25 states and D.C. have passed reforms to curb debt-based driving restrictions.

Which states are driving towards progress?

2017 – 2019
Montana, Texas, Mississippi, California, Idaho, Maine and D.C. enacted legislative reforms to end debt-based suspension.

Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, West Virginia, and New York

2021 – Present
Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Vermont, Utah, and Washington

Where does your state stand on debt-based driver’s license suspensions? Find out on our Free to Drive story map.


Get the facts about debt-based restrictions on driving

Driver’s license suspensions cost people their livelihoods. 86% of Americans drive to work and many jobs require a driver’s license. Without a license, you can’t take your children to school, buy groceries, or get healthcare. Many people have no choice but to continue driving — meaning they risk more fines and fees, a criminal conviction, and incarceration.

Suspending licenses cuts economic growth. People who can’t work or who lose income due to a suspended license have less money to contribute to the economy and less money to  pay off their initial fines and fees — leaving them saddled with court debt for years.

License suspensions undermine public safety. When law enforcement uses valuable time to cite, stop, fine and arrest people for driving on a suspended license due to unpaid fines and fees, they have less time to investigate and focus on crimes that endanger people’s lives.

You can help us end this cruel practice in every state.

Poverty should never determine who is free to drive. But right now millions of people are losing their driver’s licenses just because they can’t afford to pay fines and fees. Show your support for ending-debt based driving restrictions by signing the Free to Drive petition in support of the Driving for Opportunity Act. Take action here.

Free to Drive Steering Committee & Coalition

The Free to Drive steering committee includes the American Civil Liberties Union, Civil Rights Corps, Fines and Fees Justice Center, JPMorgan Chase, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Right on Crime, Southern Poverty Law Center, Texas Appleseed, and the Virginia Legal Aid Justice Center. See the full list of coalition members here.

Advocacy Resources

Fact sheets, bill summaries, and letters of support.

2024 Resources

What is the Driving for Opportunity Act?

2023 Resources

Letter of Support to the Senate Driving for Opportunity Act 2023

2021 Resources

Driving for Opportunity Act 2021 Full Bill Text

2020 Resources

Letter of Support for Driving for Opportunity Act 2020 from 24 Attorneys General

Letter of Support for Driving for Opportunity Act 2020 From 50+ Organizations

Fact Sheet: Poverty Should Never Determine Who is Free to Drive