Suspended drivers keep driving, endanger others

Policeman issues driver a ticket for suspended licenseScores of Oregon motorists with suspended licenses – and often without insurance – drive anyway, creating danger for legal drivers who share the road.

Jackson County sheriff's deputies issued 984 tickets in 2017 for driving while suspended, and Medford police issued another 859 citations for that offense within city limits.

Medford police told the Mail Tribune the 2017 ticket total is comparable to the previous year.

Project those numbers over Oregon's other counties – Jackson ranks sixth in population, roughly one-fourth the size of No. 1 Multnomah – and you can envision the statewide scope of illegal drivers putting other motorists at risk.

In 2016, Washington Department of Licensing statistics showed that 380,000 Evergreen State drivers had suspended licenses. All 50 states view suspended driving as a common and serious problem.

So why should you care? Safety. Many offenses can trigger a suspended license, but among the common ones are reckless driving, driving under the influence, driving with no insurance, and too many speeding tickets.

One aspect of car insurance is Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage, which protects your car if it's damaged in an accident with someone without insurance, or with too little insurance. As uninsured accidents and costs increase, insurance rates must rise in response.

Critics say that a disproportionate number of impoverished drivers have suspended licenses because they get minor traffic tickets but don't pay the fines, resulting in suspension. Those same critics say such offenses should be decriminalized.

Police counter that without consequences, risky drivers will remain on the roads, endangering law-abiding drivers.

A tow truck impounds a car driven by someone with a suspended licenseSometimes law enforcement will impound a suspended driver's vehicle.

"Impounding a vehicle is not to be punishment," a Medford police sergeant told the Mail Tribune. "It's to prohibit them from not only violating the law further, but to protect the community."

Drivers with suspended licenses can get them reinstated. In Washington, for example, you must satisfy any court requirements or fines, maintain proof of insurance for at least three years from reinstatement, and pay a licensing and reinstatement fee.

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