DOT acts to ensure equitable driver license office access for Alabama residents

Following a year-long investigation, the US Department of Transportation (US DOT) has reached an agreement with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) to ensure that driver licensing services in the state will be available to all residents, regardless of race, color, or national origin, in compliance with Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

"The US Department of Transportation took on this issue as part of our responsibility under Title VI to prevent discriminatory behavior, and I’m pleased to have reached this agreement with the State of Alabama," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "DMVs play a critical role in the day-to-day functioning of the American people, including ensuring their ability to drive to work and other essential services and to get proper identification needed to vote or open a bank account. No one should be prevented from accessing these services based on their race, color, or national origin. Title VI is not optional."

In late 2015, the State of Alabama announced that it planned to close or reduce service to 31 driver license offices throughout the state. Because its preliminary analysis of the closures suggested that the service modifications would disproportionately impact African American residents in the state’s "Black Belt" region, DOT opened an investigation into whether this action violated Title VI, which prohibits entities that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin in their programs and activities. The State of Alabama and ALEA, in particular, receive Federal assistance from the Department and, therefore, are subject to Title VI’s nondiscrimination prohibition.

DOT reportedly conducted a thorough investigation, including review of data and information related to the operation of the State’s driver licensing program, site visits to the affected areas, and interviews with residents impacted by the program. The investigation revealed that African Americans residing in the state’s Black Belt region are disproportionately underserved by ALEA’s driver license services, causing a disparate and adverse impact on the basis of race, in violation of Title VI.

"Today’s agreement between US DOT and ALEA is intended to correct this violation by guaranteeing that driver licensing services will be available to all Alabama residents on an equitable basis without regard to race, color or national origin," said Yvette Rivera, associate director of the Departmental Office of Civil Rights, which conducted the investigation.

Under the agreement, ALEA will ensure that Alabama residents are not, directly or through other means, underserved by ALEA’s driver licensing programs on the basis of race, color or national origin. The agreement also establishes a working relationship between US DOT and ALEA for ensuring that the state’s driver licenses services continue to comply with Title VI in the future.

Specifically, ALEA agreed to:

  1. Expand the hours of operation for district and field driver license offices throughout the Black Belt region;
  2. Appoint a Title VI coordinator who will be responsible for the development and operation of ALEA’s Title VI program, as well as for the provision of Title VI training to ALEA’s staff;
  3. Prepare and submit a Community Participation Plan within 90 days to achieve robust community participation throughout all stages of the planning and decision-making processes for ALEA’s programs and activities in connection with licensing services to ensure that communities are informed about potential impacts, that they have meaningful input into the process, and that ALEA officials hear and consider diverse views;
  4. Submit any proposed modifications to field office hours or driver’s license services to US DOT for prior approval.
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