UK Politics

Driving test translations and interpreters may face axe

An L plate
Image caption Nineteen foreign language voiceovers are available

Foreign language translations and interpreters for people taking their driving test in the UK could be axed.

Ministers have launched a consultation on the change which they believe will boost road safety, help social cohesion and cut costs.

Last year nearly 80,000 requests were made for foreign language theory test voiceovers, or for interpreters.

Transport minister Stephen Hammond said the consultation on the changes would last until 2 April.

The consultation paper "sets out proposals to remove or reduce the language support given to non-English speaking candidates taking theory and practical driving tests".

"It seeks views on whether foreign language voiceovers and interpreters should continue to be provided or whether the statutory driving tests should be conducted only in the National Languages (English and, in Wales, English and Welsh)."

The reasons given are:

  • Road safety - to ensure drivers understand road signs and other advice to drivers
  • Social cohesion - to encourage integration in society by learning the language
  • Reduce fraud - to address issue of interpreters helping with theory test answers
  • Reduce costs - to generate a small saving from not having to annually update voiceovers

The government says its preferred option is to remove all foreign language voiceovers and interpreters from both parts of the driving test, but it is also consulting on doing nothing or removing support from one or other parts of the test.

At the moment pre-recorded voiceovers in 19 foreign languages are available to candidates.

Interpreters are available for other languages, and for the practical part of the test.

In 2011/12, 1.57 million practical car driving tests were carried out, with an interpreter present for 35,000 of them.

Since 2009 nine people have been removed from the list of approved interpreters and 861 test passes revoked.

There is no proposal to remove the English and Welsh voiceovers for candidates with dyslexia or other reading difficulties, or for the use of sign language interpreters.

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