Alabama lawmaker pursues English-only driver’s license exams

| 2/15/2008

If an Alabama state lawmaker gets his way, the state’s driver’s license test would be offered only in English.

The measure 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, said he plans to introduce legislation during the session that started Feb. 5 that would end the practice of offering exams in 14 languages.

The legislation would implement a state constitutional amendment approved in 1990 that made English the official language in Alabama. 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 are being sought in statehouses that include 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.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Alabama in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor