A recent bipartisan effort launched by North Carolina State Representatives Jason Saine (R-97), Ashton Wheeler Clemmons (D-57), Allen Chesser (R-25), and Joe John (D-40) seeking to abolish the practice of suspending driver’s licenses “for failure to pay a fine or penalty, or failure to appear at court” is gaining significant traction. House Bill 888 (H888) “eliminates the system of suspending a person’s driver’s license” as a legal penalty, putting an end to the counterproductive practice in the Tar Heel state once and for all. 

The act of suspending a person’s driver’s license for failure to pay a fine or appear in court greatly impairs their ability to remedy the initial cause for suspension. How can someone be expected to earn an income and pay off their fines or appear before a court if they do not have access to transportation? This problem is accentuated when one considers the reliance that many rural North Carolinians have on cars for transportation. As a consequence, this policy has had a disproportionate impact on rural North Carolinians who do not have ready access to public transit. 

The elimination of the license suspension system will resolve this apparent oversight. It is also worth considering that North Carolina suffers from a major labor shortage, where “even if every unemployed worker was connected with an available job, there would still be nearly 160,000 open positions and no one to fill them. That’s according to figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce.” 

Imposing obstacles to desperately needed employment like suspending driver’s licenses has only intensified this problem. The abolition of this ill-conceived practice will help rid North Carolina of one of the major obstacles many in the state have to finding work. 

No one is contesting that it is reasonable to impose sanctions on those who have failed to pay off their debts to the state or neglect their obligation to appear before a court. Keeping this in mind, it is unreasonable to rob someone of their ability to go to work to earn an income to pay off their debts or appear before a court. It should also be noted that this bill would not end the practice of suspending the licenses of those who drive recklessly and endanger others. 

Representative Saine (R-97) and his peers’ bill H888 would finally end this wrongheaded policy. All North Carolina legislators – regardless of their political affiliation – should unite behind this bipartisan effort to resolve this glaring inequity and oversight.