But the practice in recent years has drawn criticism from across the political spectrum. A 2022 report by the right-leaning R Street Institute argued such suspensions do not benefit public safety or improve collections on outstanding debt.

Christi Smith, the report’s author, told the Register that a person with a suspended license has three options: pay off the debt, which they likely cannot afford to do; stop driving entirely; or continue driving as needed to pick up children, get groceries, go to work and do other necessary tasks. That choice is by far the most common, she said, exposing the person to further prosecution, fines and costs for driving on a suspended license.

“It’s what ensnares people in a cycle of poverty and legal system involvement,” she said. “So, not only is the suspension ineffective at collecting debt, it incentivizes people to drive under the suspended license to earn the money they need to repay the debt, while increasing the likelihood that they’ll incur additional citations, fines and fees for driving while suspended.”

Instead of using driver’s licenses to try to force debt payments, Smith said, states should consider better options, such as seizing tax refunds or garnishing wages.