Christina is one of the estimated 4 million California drivers struggling to manage the mounting financial burden of a suspended driver’s license, the result of costly driving fines.
While many drivers are familiar with the process of getting a driving ticket, the subsequent legal process is not as clear -- especially when education level or language act as barriers. After statutory add-ons are calculated, a $100 ticket instantly becomes almost $500. Unable to pay this initial cost -- and with job or health concerns often getting in the way -- many drivers do not make it to court and have their license suspended. In this way, California’s system of fines and fees may disproportionately impact low-income drivers.
A lifelong San Francisco resident, Christina’s mobility is greatly impaired due to a violent mugging that left her wearing a prosthetic leg for the rest of her life. Unable to walk farther than a few blocks, Christina’s license suspension meant an inability to go to the store for groceries, or to make the five separate doctor’s appointments she attended weekly.
This mini-documentary -- “Out of Reach” -- chronicles Christina’s attempts to have her license reinstated after more than 13 years of suspension.
Christina is not alone. According to a recent report released by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, many drivers face a choice between obeying the law and providing for themselves and their families. The state’s system of using license suspensions as a tool of debt-collection is ineffective, as the loss of employment that often results leaves drivers unable to pay their debt.