Nearly 26,000 undocumented residents receive Driver Autorization Cards |

Nearly 26,000 undocumented residents receive Driver Autorization Cards

A sample of the Nevada Driver Authorization Cards that were approved by the 2013 Legislature. In 2014, there were 25,910 undocumented immigrants driving legally on Nevada roads and highways.
Courtesy Nevada DMV |

As 2014 ended, there were 25,910 undocumented immigrants driving legally on Nevada roads and highways.

That number included 23,840 who passed both the written and driving skills test and another 2,070 who passed the written test and received an instruction permit — typically the 15 1/2 year-old children of those immigrants.

Driver Authorization Cards were created by the 2013 Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Brian Sandoval as a way to provide those in the U.S. illegally a way to legally drive in the state. Supporters argued the law would make Nevada’s roads safer since recipients would have to pass a written and driving skills test and buy car insurance.

“The reality is, a lot of these folks have been driving for some time,” said David Fierro, Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman.

Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, who sponsored the legislation, estimated up to 60,000 would be eligible for authorization cards.

Fierro said, in fact, the written test was given 71,054 times and the driving skills test was administered 29,961 times during 2014.

But he said a significant number of those were duplicates — people retaking the written or driving test at least once. DMV didn’t track that number.

In addition, Fierro said there were a number of people who couldn’t complete the driving portion because they didn’t have an insured vehicle to take it in.

“We had a lot of first time applicants for driving privileges in the state of Nevada who really didn’t understand the process,” Fierro said. “They thought they could walk in, fill out some paperwork and be handed a license. For a lot of people, this was a whole new process.”

Fierro said one of the objectives of the legislation was to increase the number of insured motorists. It was modeled after the Utah law officials there say, significantly reduced the number of uninsured drivers.

“Our law was patterned after Utah’s law and what they experienced in Utah was a significant drop in their rate of uninsured motorists. More insured motorists were a byproduct of the Utah law,” said DMV Director Troy Dillard when the program started. “If we can replicate that in Nevada we will have more drivers on the road who know the rules and have a higher rate of insured motorists. In the end, that would benefit all of us.”

Overall, Fierro said just 31 percent of those undocumented residents passed the written test.

Unlike regular drivers’ licenses, the cards cannot be used as official identification to enter federal buildings or board an airline.

The 78,002 regular Nevada residents who took the written test in 2014 did somewhat better at 45 percent.

There are currently 1.7 million licensed drivers in Nevada.

In order to get an authorization card, immigrants must provide proof of their identity using military identification or a certificate of degree of Indian blood or two documents from a list that includes a driver’s license, passport, birth certificate or other official document plus proof of Nevada residency.

Those same ID documents must be provided when the cardholder goes for renewal as well.