Local Politics

Bill would tie driver's license to English proficiency

Posted May 26, 2010

— A state lawmaker introduced a bill Wednesday that would require anyone seeking a North Carolina driver's license to be able to speak, read and write English.

The state Division of Motor Vehicles offers its written driver's tests in nine languages – English, Spanish, German, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese – and people who speak none of those languages can take the test orally with the help of a translator.

DMV driver's license test terminal DMV offers test for driver's license in nine languages

House Bill 1963 would do away with the multiple versions of the tests. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Harold Brubaker, R-Randolph, said requiring English proficiency would save the state the expense of printing the foreign-language tests and improve safety on North Carolina roads.

"If you speak Chinese or Russian and can't read our signs and can't speak English, it's an absolute safety issue, and I think that needs to be addressed," Brubaker said. "People getting driver's licenses in North Carolina should be able to speak English."

Some area drivers support the idea.

"If you're here, I think you should at least know (the language)," Brian Thorp said. "If I go to another country – to Europe or South America or Asia – I would have to know that language to go ahead and take the test there. I think it's fair."

Daniel Chen said he liked being able to take his driver's license test in Chinese last year because he has trouble reading English. Some of the test questions use "advanced English," he said.

"I passed the Chinese version of the test in one time," Chen said. "(People) have the right to have the option to pass the test."

Pablo Escobar, a spokesman for El Pueblo, a nonprofit advocacy group for Latinos in the Triangle, said most traffic signs include images, not words, so it's unnecessary to understand English to be a safe driver.

"It doesn't really seem fair because there are a lot of people in this country of limited English proficiency that are legal residents, and some of them are also citizens," Escobar said.

The bill doesn't define what qualifies as being proficient in English, but Escobar predicted that, if the legislation were approved, drivers who couldn't meet the standard would simply drive without licenses and without insurance, which would negate Brubaker's goal of improving traffic safety.

"They're probably going to drive anyway, and they're not going to have the benefit of having had access to drivers education material (and) to have passed the test to make sure they're ready to drive," he said.


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  • lorivalentine1 May 27, 2010

    It's about time... Let them drive illegally and then they can get caught in other ways and shipped out if they are not here legally...

  • uncrulez May 27, 2010

    According to the General Assembly legislative office, these are the only bills that can be considered during the short session:

    As in the past, only certain measures may be considered during the Short Session – primarily those relating to appropriations, finance, pensions and retirement, and localities; certain legislation from the 2009 Regular Session; and legislation proposed by study commissions. Any measure, however, may be introduced and considered if authorized by a joint resolution passed by a two-thirds vote of each chamber's members
    present and voting. Blank bills (those having no substantive provisions) cannot be introduced in the House of Representatives during the Short Session.

    It is doubtful they could get a joint resolution so this bill is just a waste of time and typical election year pandering.

  • Even May 27, 2010

    It's a start but I know how the state works. If their heart isn't into it, it will be a joke. Sample driving proficiency test. Cat, dog, run, play, etc. and you're allowed to miss 9 out of ten.

  • Greyhound_Girl May 27, 2010


  • wildcat May 27, 2010

    they will just drive illegally...

    many are doing just that now.

  • pattip574 May 27, 2010

    I'm not too sure this will correct any problems! More likely, they will just drive illegally...

  • wildcat May 27, 2010


  • ibbott41 May 27, 2010

    Let’s leave those religious sentiments aside and let us concentrate in pushing this idea forward. If you do not read English, you are prom to have an accident or cause one in an English speaking country.
    I am sure you have to drive or have family members on the road, and you do not want to be involved in an accident where the other party does not read or understand English.
    If you are in China you would not understand the signs if you do not know the language

  • wildcat May 27, 2010

    America should be ENGLISH speaking and not SPANISH.

  • woody27603 May 27, 2010

    Too many things to say in such a short space. Perhaps I can start by saying the ignorance shown and hate espoused by other citizens of this great Christian country founded by slave owners, built by the backs of immigrant labor (slaves, indentured servants, anyone less powerful than the moneyed Christian elite) on land stolen or taken by force from the native inhabitants who also immigrated to this land is getting really old
    It would be so nice if even half the folks who comment on these sites had bothered to take advantage of the "free" education offered in this great land and paid attention in history and civics class, and now bothered to stay up to date on the current laws of the land. No id needed to vote, just try and get a driver’s license, register a car, or open a bank account without “proper identity papers” and see what happens.
    Definitely let’s make it even more difficult for those who come here for whatever reason –say genocide, perhaps natural disaster, ma