Tennessee bill would mandate English-only driver’s license tests

| Thursday, February 07, 2008

A legislative effort in Tennessee is intended to make sure aspiring truckers and other drivers have a firm grasp of the English language before they obtain their licenses to drive.

Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, introduced a bill that would require all written driver’s license examinations in the state to be given only in English. Tennessee law now allows the written part of the test to be given in Spanish.

This is Ketron’s third attempt in as many years to get the bill through the statehouse. Each of the past two years the legislation advanced from the Senate only to die in the House.

Tennessee isn’t alone in pursuit of rules intended to make sure aspiring truckers and other drivers can communicate in English. Similar efforts are being sought in statehouses that include Alabama, Missouri, New Hampshire and West Virginia.

Supporters say state restrictions are needed to help ensure that drivers have a firm grasp of the English language before they obtain their license to drive. They also offer reminders about the federal rules.

Ketron also pointed out that although some people may recognize the shape of road signs, they can’t read the words on them.

Opponents say there are no studies that suggest English proficiency makes better drivers. Others say there are more pressing issues to address in the state.

According to a fiscal analysis on the bill, the English requirement would save the state $66,500 annually in printing costs to offer testing in Spanish.

The bill – SB3644 – is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
keith_goble@landlinemag.com

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