Could New Jersey soon mandate English-only license testing?

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Tuesday, August 21, 2012

As the calendar inches closer to fall, lawmakers in a handful of states, including New Jersey, continue to meet to discuss possible new rules. One bill that remains up for consideration in the Garden State would help make sure that aspiring motorists have a firm grasp of the English language before they obtain their licenses to drive.

New Jersey law now offers licensing for personal licenses in 10 languages. Anyone unable to read one of those languages can arrange for an interpreter to help during an oral examination.

Would-be truck drivers already are limited to English-only testing.

A bill in the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee would make some changes. Both portions of the examinations for personal licenses – written test and skill test – would be required to be administered only in English.

Applicants’ ability to understand traffic signs and signals written in English also would be required. In addition, they would be prohibited from using translators while taking the tests.

Supporters say they are concerned that people are allowed to drive on roads without a command of the English language. They say it’s a matter of safety.

Sen. Gerald Cardinale, R-Cresskill, has said the reform sought in S1874 is an important piece of ensuring that traffic woes in the state are lessened over time.

Opponents say there are no studies that suggest English proficiency makes better drivers. They also say restricting tests to English-only would hurt economic development in the state.

Also covered in the bill is a requirement that breath test warnings and explanations for driving under the influence be given in English only.

Cardinale has said it is indisputable that the common language on the road in the state is English. To him, it is common sense that drivers licensed in New Jersey understand the common language that regulates traffic throughout the state.

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

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