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Brakes put on drive test language barrier in East Lancashire
3:00pm Thursday 14th February 2013 in East Lancashire
EAST Lancashire residents whose first language is not English may soon be unable to take their driving test using an interpreter.
The use of theory test translations and practical test interpreters is being reviewed by the Driving Standards Agency over fears of fraud and the rising cost of fees.
Blackburn with Darwen’s driving test centre saw 332 people requiring an interpreter to be sat with them on their practical test last year, which is 177 more test takers than in 2011.
Nelson also had almost 100 learner drivers requiring language help last year, an increase of 23 people in the same period.
Blackburn with Darwen and Nelson do not have any theory test centres, but the centre at Bolton, which is the nearest, conducted 1,204 tests with a non-English language voice-over.
Their top five most frequent non-English voice-overs were Urdu, Gujurati, Kurdish, Polish and Arabic.
Nelson councillor Eileen Ansar said she was opposed to the changes.
She said: “I think that it sounds like an attack on human rights to say if they can’t speak English, they can’t take the test.”
Steve Johnson, of the Under-17 Motor Club Northwest, said: “If the people who are learning to drive cannot read the Highway Code and cannot interpret the signs on their own then perhaps they should not be driving on the roads.”
Road Safety Minister Stephen Hammond said: “We want to ensure that all drivers have the right skills to use our roads safely and responsibly.
“There is a potential road safety risk of drivers not understanding important traffic updates or emergency information, but allowing the use of interpreters on tests also presents the risk of fraud, for example if they are indicating the correct answers to theory test questions.”
The DSA consultation sets out three options: removing voice-overs on the theory test and the use of interpreters on all tests; removing voice-overs but keeping the use of interpreters; and removing interpreters on both theory and practical tests but keeping the use of voice-overs on theory tests.
It is the candidate’s own responsibility to pay for interpreters themselves, but the cost of developing and updating voice-overs for the theory test is met by the taxpayer. The consultation ends on April 2.
and you can respond online on www.gov.uk/government/consultations/driving-test-language-support