South Carolina senator: Stop giving driver tests in foreign languages

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sat Jul 14 18:29:24 UTC 2007

Posted on Fri, Jul. 13, 2007
SC senator: Stop giving driver tests in foreign languages
Associated Press Writer

South Carolina should stop giving driver's license tests in foreign
languages, in part because the practice breaks the law, Senate
President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell said Friday. The Charleston
Republican warned the Department of Motor Vehicles that if the agency
doesn't change its policy, he will introduce legislation next year
forcing it to do so. McConnell said drivers that don't speak English
can't read highway message boards, which warn motorists about
kidnappings, traffic accidents and hurricane evacuations.
"Is it good public policy to give driver's licenses to people who
can't speak, read, or understand English?" McConnell said.

The state Department of Motor Vehicles has no plans to stop giving
tests in Spanish, German and French. Gov. Mark Sanford's spokesman
said the Republican governor had no objection to the tests. "These
tests provide an economical and commonsense solution when testing a
foreign customer who needs a license, such as German BMW employees
working at the Greer facility," the Department of Motor Vehicles'
executive director, Marcia Adams, wrote McConnell on Thursday.

The issue also has surfaced in Alabama, where the state Supreme Court
heard arguments last month on a challenge to the state's drivers'
exams in 14 languages, including Farsi, Vietnamese and American sign
language. The plaintiffs say that English is the official language in
Alabama. While six states provide English-only tests, all allow
translations or interpreters, according to court documents in the
case. The South Carolina Motor Vehicles Department has driver's
manuals in Spanish, but only about 10,000 of those remain from a 2002
printing. Adams said the agency has no plans to print more.

McConnell said the Spanish-language tests violate a law passed in 1987
declaring English as the state's official language. South Carolina's
law is found in the books between one naming the Lettered Olive as the
state shell and one designating the Spotted Salamander the state
amphibian. The law says neither state or any other subdivision "shall
require, by law, ordinance, regulation, order, decree, program, or
policy, the use of any language other than English." Adams doesn't
think the agency is violating the law, but McConnell disagrees.

"This is an English-speaking state. Our government is supposed to
therefore print its forms and conduct itself in the English language.
If we've got to have that debate, so be it," he said.

Associated Press Writer Seanna Adcox in Columbia contributed to this report.
(c) 2007 and wire service sources. All Rights
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