Data has been released which shows over 1,000 learner drivers have required an interpreter in the car with them while taking their driving test in Sussex. The figure relates to the last three years and the interpreter was needed because the learner did not have a strong enough command of the English language.
During the same period around 5,000 Sussex learners also requested to sit the theory part of the test in a different language. The figures were obtained following a Freedom of Information request to the Driving Standards Agency and comes at the same time as the Coalition have announced that they are looking into ways to ban foreign language driving tests. The Department of Transport would prefer drivers to learn English before they even get as far as a motor insurance quote.
The most frequently requested foreign languages for theory tests are Polish, Turkish and Arabic and although the cost of the translators for the driving part of the test is met by the learner taking the test, the cost of translating the theory part into a different language is met by the taxpayer. The Coalition are studying how to change the rules amid fears that foreign drivers are having higher accident rates on the roads of the United Kingdom.
Transport minister Mike Penning said: “I find it incredible that Labour thought it was a good idea to let people without a basic grasp of English loose on our roads. Road safety should be our priority, not political correctness. With the number of vehicles on the roads increasing each year, we need to do our best to save as many lives as we can.”
Road safety experts do not agree with the Coalition and feel drivers who do not speak English don’t generally pose a road safety threat because road signs are designed to be symbolic, so being able to read them is not a factor.