English-only driver’s license exams sought in Alabama

| 4/21/2008

Two bills the Alabama Senate would mandate that the state’s driver’s license test be offered only in English and implement a rule that English is the state’s official language.

The licensing measure – SB447 – is intended to make sure anyone licensed to drive in the state has a firm grasp of the English language. Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, introduced the legislation that would end the practice of offering exams in 14 languages.

The second bill – SB446 – would implement a state constitutional amendment approved in 1990 that made English the official language in Alabama. It would prevent official government records from being in multiple languages.

Beason said it also would improve safety on the state’s roadways.

Alabama isn’t alone in pursuit of rules intended to make sure aspiring truckers and others can communicate in English. Similar efforts were offered this year in statehouses that included Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Supporters say restrictions are needed in states to help ensure that drivers have a firm grasp of the English language before they obtain their license to drive. Beason also pointed out that road signs are in English.

Opponents say there are no studies that suggest English proficiency makes better drivers. Others say the proposal sends the wrong message in recruiting business from foreign countries.

Beason’s bills are in the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Alabama, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor