KAKE NEWS INVESTIGATES: Suspended drivers licenses raise costs for all drivers

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WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

There are more than 213,000 suspended drivers licenses in Kansas, according to the most recent numbers from the Kansas Department of Revenue.  But even if yours is not one of them, the problem still affects you.  It comes down to your pocketbook, both in terms of state taxes and car insurance payments.

"If I can't pay my bills, I can't pay my fine," said Daniel Lawrence.

Last week we introduced you to Lawrence. He's one of thousands of suspended license holders in Kansas, about half of them right here in Wichita and Sedgwick County.  He says not having a license has been a severe handicap, from his home life to work. 

"I can't go do simple things like running to the grocery store.  I can't go take my kids anywhere," he said.  "I can't take the company vehicle and leave and go do things. It's very, very difficult."

Lawrence relies on his wife to drive him around, which doubles their gas bill when every penny matters.  They recently filed for bankruptcy.  Problems like Lawrence's are costing you, too.

"If you have a suspended license and you can't get insurance and you're in a wreck and you hit someone, that hurts all of us," said Rep. Gail Finney, D-Wichita, chair of the Criminal Justice Sub-Committee on Re-Entry.  "As you have mentioned before, when you're driving down the street, chances are you are going to pass by someone that has a suspended drivers license."

The more uninsured accidents in a state, the more the cost of no-fault insurance goes up for everyone.

Finney estimates 50% of drivers with suspended licenses, likely more, drive anyway.

"You have to get to work.  You cannot pay those fines and fees for those licenses if you don't have a job.  How do they expect you to get to a job if you can't get transportation on a bus?  And most people can't afford Uber or Lyft," Finney said.  "And they just give up and they just end up driving because they figure, 'There's nothing I can do. I can't afford it.'  Some people have already gone bankrupt."

While those who don't work find themselves relying on state social services to feed their families.

"It's an increasing cycle that seems to never end," she said.  "Because when these people are not working, that economically affects our state.  If you cannot have a job, you cannot contribute."

And, believe it or not, the exploding prison population is a factor in this problem, which is where Finney's sub-committee comes in.

"We're trying to reduce the mass incarceration in Kansas.  That has been a big concern here," she said.

Finney says many former prisoners can't find jobs because they don't have a license and end up either driving illegally or returning to crime to pay the bills, which just leads to another stint behind bars.

"Even with Wichita, the transportation is very limited.  It's hard to be in Wichita or another city, or even in a rural area, if you cannot drive and get around.  So it compounds, not only for the offender, but their family and their job," she said.  "We want people working and we want our recidivism rate to decrease."

Finney says her sub-committee is looking at several proposals to send to lawmakers in January, including making restricted licenses easier to get and cutting out the 90 day waiting period after you've paid your fine and fees and before you can apply to get your license re-instated.

"Ninety days may not seem like a lot of time to you, but if you're trying to feed your family, go to work, or even go see your probation or parole officer, transportation is a major barrier to a lot of these people," Finney said.

A barrier that she says costs taxpayers more money in the long term.

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