April 4 (UPI) -- More than 1 million undocumented immigrants have been granted a driver's license in California since a 2015 state law for that purpose went into effect, according to DMV data.
That law, AB 60, also known as the Safe and Responsible Drivers Act, has "dramatically improved the lives of a million immigrants and their families," said Luis Alejo, the former assemblyman who authored the bill, in a statement to the Sacramento Bee.
"Immigrants are getting tested, licensed and insured and this is making our roads safer for everyone," said Alejo, who is now a Monterey County supervisor.
The milestone, which was reached March 31, comes amid a feud over immigration laws between the state and federal government, with some local lawmakers in California siding with the Justice Department.
Despite the divide over how to deal with California's undocumented immigrant population, public safety experts contend that granting driver's licenses to people in the country illegally has improved road safety, the Mercury News reported.
According to a 2017 study by Stanford University's Immigration Policy Lab, during the first year after AB 60 was implemented, there was a 10 percent reduction in hit and run accidents -- about 4,000 fewer -- which resulted in $3.5 million savings in out-of-pocket expense for drivers.
The law has also led to fewer uninsured drivers, with $17 million in accidents costs transferred to at-fault drivers' insurance companies.
"Imagine a million new consumers who are buying auto insurance, buying new or used vehicles and renting cars," Gina Gates, who has led AB 60 workshops, told the Mercury News. "This has been an economic boon for California in the billions of dollars."
Undocumented immigrants used to be able to obtain driver's licenses in any state until 1993, when California became the first to restrict access, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Other states followed and now there are only 12 states, as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, that allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.