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Unfortunately, it appears the Friday automobile accident that resulted in the death of a three-year-old child is part of a disturbing national trend. The driver who caused the crash, according to police officials, was an unlicenced teenager.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) recently released data that indicate one in five fatal crashes involve at least one unlicensed driver. This number – 20% – represents a national average, with a large degree of variation among the individual states. In Michigan, 12.6% of fatal accidents involve at least one driver with an invalid license.

In many cases, such as the tragic crash in Lansing late last week, the driver never even applies for a license. In other cases, the unlicensed driver may have had his or her license suspended or revoked. In Michigan, motorists with suspended licenses have to demonstrate that they have changed their behavior before they can have their license reinstated. Rather than submit to the appeals process, two-thirds of drivers nationwide simply continue to operate motor vehicles with their license suspended.

Several states, including Michigan, are making it harder for unlicensed drivers to get behind the wheel. One option adopted in many jurisdictions is vehicle immobilization, where the offender is prevented from having access to his or her car. Other steps may include license plate confiscation and vehicle forfeiture.

Unlicensed drivers put everyone on the road at risk. Sadly, Friday’s tragic accident is an all too common reminder that driving is a privilege not to be taken lightly.

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