South Carolina: Senator: Driver's test should be English only

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Wed Jul 18 14:05:36 UTC 2007

Article published Jul 16, 2007
*Senator: Driver's test should be English only*

Charleston, S.C. | 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 nor any other subdivision "shall
require, by law, ordinance, regulation, order, decree, program, or policy,
the use of any language other than English." "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,"
McConnell said.

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