HB 302 Would Make Roads Less Safe By Requiring Driver’s License Tests in English Only

January 29, 2011Shahid Haque

The anti-immigrant bills continue to be introduced in the Montana Legislature. Rep. Janna Taylor (a Republican) introduced a mean-spirited and pointless bill that would restrict driver’s license tests to English only. This bill won’t save any money, time or resources. This bill succeeds in only one thing — marginalizing non-English speakers. Beartooth NBC did a story on this bill.The State of Montana already administers the written exam in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian. The state already has the computer system to do this, and it costs us nothing to continue to use that system. There is a reason why we require drivers to take a test and be licensed: To make our streets safer. Whether the test is given in Spanish, Russian, or Chinese, it’s the same test. It ensures that the driver understands how to obey the rules of the road.As far as I know, the driving test itself is only conducted in English. Therefore, a driver would still have to demonstrate his or her capacity to follow the rules in English. If they can’t, I would assume they would fail the driving test. There is simply no reason to restrict the test to English only. You would only be creating the risk that non-English speaking drivers would drive without a license.In addition to being deeply misguided, this bill is also a non-issue. I believe that very few non-English speakers are taking the test in their native language.It should be noted that this is not about ensuring that drivers are legally authorized to be here in the country. That is already a requirement for a license. This is targeting lawful residents who simply want to drive. Only a handful of states have passed a law like this. We don’t need to be one of them.Let’s concentrate on what matters to the people of the State of Montana and set aside divisive bills like this, which are only distractions from what we elected our representatives to do.

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