Advocates Call On Governor To End Driver’s License Suspensions For Unpaid Traffic Fines

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SYRACUSE, NY (WRVO) – Supporters of a law that would end suspension of driver’s licenses because of overdue traffic fines are pushing for action from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Both the State Assembly and Senate have approved legislation that repeals a law that lets the state suspend the driver’s license of individuals who don’t pay overdue traffic fines and penalties.

Yusuf Abdul-Qadir of the CNY chapter of the NYCLU, speaks at a news conference Tuesday. Behind him, from l-r, are State Sen. Tim Kennedy, State Sen. Rachel May, and State Assemblywoman Pam Hunter ELLEN ABBOTT / WRVO NEWS

State Assemblywoman Pam Hunter (D-Syracuse) said when fines and fees pile up and driver’s licenses are suspended, it unjustly targets low-income minority communities.

“In a situation where there’s something else looming over their head with fines and fees during this COVID situation,” Hunter said. “This is something that could impact someone’s life in a positive way today, and obviously keep them driving.”

Hunter said it’s an issue that particularly impacts people of color.

“Especially if you’re talking about people having generational poverty. People who are unemployed or underemployed, who don’t have the capacity to have $200 or $500 lying around for the fees,” she said. “And that’s not just assessment of the tickets, it’s the fees on top.”

Things get even worse when the state suspends someone’s driver’s license for failure to pay traffic tickets. Statistics show communities with people of color receive driver’s license suspensions four times more than communities with the lowest percentages of people of color.

Hunter said the legislation would also help individuals work out payment plans to pay off the debt. Supporters are hopeful the law will be signed by Gov. Cuomo before the end of the year.