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Missouri, Other States Pursue English-Only Driver Testing Requirement

Aspiring truck drivers in Missouri already are required to prove they have a firm grasp of the English language to obtain a license to get behind the wheel of a big rig. An effort in the state’s House would apply the same rule for all other drivers who want to be licensed in the state.

At least nine states now limit licensing tests to English only. The Show-Me State is one of at least eight states to have taken on the task of looking to ensure that aspiring drivers have a firm grasp of the English language before they obtain their licenses.

The Missouri bill would require both portions of the driver’s examinations – written test and skill test – to be administered only in English.

Applicants’ ability to understand traffic signs and signals written in English also would be required. They would be prohibited from using translators while taking the tests.

Supporters say they are concerned that people are allowed to drive on Missouri roads without a command of the English language.

Opponents say there are no studies that suggest English proficiency makes better drivers.

Advocates for the English standard say it’s a matter of safety.

The bill – HB1231 – is awaiting consideration in the House International Trade and Immigration Committee.

Georgia

A bill would make English the only language for a driver’s license exam. Georgia’s license exam consists of two written knowledge exams, a road rules test and a road sign test, and a driving test. The road rules test is available in 11 foreign languages.

The Georgia Senate and House approved the bill a year ago, but they weren’t able to agree on wording in the legislation before the session wrapped up. Lawmakers can continue their discussion on SB67 during the 2010 session.

Idaho

The state driver’s license exam is offered in eight languages. A Senate bill would restrict all written tests to English.

S1303 also would prohibit the use of translators to help with tests. The bill is in the Senate State Affairs Committee.

Minnesota

The pursuit of English-only license testing is also underway in the Minnesota statehouse. HF585/SF577 would require prospective drivers to complete the written exams in English, without the assistance of interpreters.

The bills are in committee.

New York

A bill in the Assembly Transportation Committee would require that all examinations for licenses be conducted in English. A5349 would prohibit interpreters from providing assistance.

South Carolina

Multiple efforts would require all state agencies and local governments to “offer all services, publications, printed, audio, and video materials, and test in an English-only format” unless directed otherwise by federal law or regulation. The requirement would apply to people applying for commercial driver’s licenses.

Senate Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, is calling for changes in South Carolina because the Department of Motor Vehicles offers driving tests in German, French and Spanish despite the fact that regulations on CDLs require applicants to be able to understand and to speak the English language.

McConnell’s bill – S3 – and a similar House bill – H3771 – are in committee.

South Dakota

Driver’s license tests are offered solely in English, but interpreters are permitted to assist test takers. The Senate Transportation Committee has advanced a bill that would forbid the use of interpreters. SB72 specifies that a person applying for a driver license prove “the ability to read and understand simple English” as used on traffic signs.

The bill is awaiting consideration on the Senate floor.

Tennessee

Legislation in the House and Senate would require English-only driver’s licensing. HB2940/SB2660 would mandate that all written driver’s exams to be offered solely in English. The bills are in committee.

Tennessee now permits exams to be conducted in English, Japanese, Korean and Spanish.

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