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

More than half of 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, 22 states and D.C. have passed reforms to curb debt-based driving restrictions.

Which states have enacted reforms in 2021?

This year alone, the governors of 10 states — Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Utah, and Washington — signed legislative reforms. But there is still more work to be done. In our latest recap of 2021 reforms, we give advocates 10 key questions for evaluating ongoing and future efforts.

Read our 2021 recap and key questions for evaluating ongoing and future efforts>

Explore the Free to Drive campaign’s interactive maps to see which states still suspend for failure to pay fines and fees and for failure to appear for a court hearing. You can also see which states have passed reforms and those with proposed legislation.


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

2021 Resources

Driving for Opportunity Act 2021 Intro and Explainer

Driving for Opportunity Act 2021 Full Bill Text

Letter of Support for Senate Driving for Opportunity Act 2021

2017-2021 DLS Reforms Graphic: 14 States (Powerpoint)– Current as of 3/1/2021

2017-2021 DLS Reforms Graphic: 14 States (Twitter)— Current as of 3/1/2021

2020 Resources

2020 Victories: Driver’s License Suspension Reforms

Driving for Opportunity Act Explainer: Issue, Key Points and Bill Summary

Driving for Opportunity Act Full Bill Text

Driving for Opportunity Act Letter to the Senate from Free to Drive Coalition July 16 2020

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

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

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