The Corner

Re: Those Illegal-Alien Drivers

Since 1980, I can recall five or six illegal-alien drivers who ended up in my vineyard, after veering off the road at high speeds, ploughing through the vineyard, and ripping out lots of mature vines, before ending up several rows from the road. In only two cases did the police find the somnolent, intoxicated (uninjured) drivers still in the cars (both with no license, no valid ID, and no car insurance). In the other three or four cases, the drivers successfully fled the scene; there was no vehicle registration in their abandoned cars and trucks, but plenty of evidence of alcohol use. In all these instances, I was not allowed by the California Highway Patrol to confiscate the vehicle left on my property to sell off as compensation for the resulting damage (several thousands of dollars of wrecked vines, wire, stakes, lost production for three years, etc.).

The state hired a company to tow the vehicles away to an impound yard, and I imagine the fleeing drivers probably later returned to bail out their impounded cars that still ran. I was never given any information that the cars were sold off or that I would be compensated by the drivers. The most recent incident was three years ago with the same results: ruined vines; no compensation; an abandoned vehicle without registration or insurance; a missing driver; a towed-away car by the state.

This is all quite common in rural California, though probably not so in Barack Obama’s or Eric Holder’s neighborhoods. One can drive on country roads, and every so often see whole swaths of young vines or vine runners replanted in the roadside rows of an otherwise mature vineyard, with dozens of new stakes and wire to mark the accident site. The vineyard’s wire and canes act like a shock absorber and over several yards gradually slow down the speeding car as it tears across several rows (the record in my case was nine), without seriously injuring the intoxicated driver.

In addition, I was broadsided on one occasion by an illegal-alien driver, who after running the stop sign and hitting the driver side of my truck, abandoned his car (no insurance, no registration) and fled on foot (I caught him). He had no license, but the arriving officer told me that he had charged him only with running the stop sign (not a hit and run) and would release him. I had to pay the deductible for the damage to my truck by the uninsured driver, and my insurance company later quietly informed me that the local police had filed no report of the accident.

Not enforcing immigration law is, well, not enforcing a federal statute. The notion that unlawful drivers cause little problems is a fantasy. In my experience, those who do not obtain legal residence, do not register and insure their vehicles, and do not obtain a valid driver’s license, are far more likely to get in accidents, and when they do, to harm other people and property. A car that veers off the road at high speed sometimes hits more than vines.

Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

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