Use of foreign languages on driving tests may be banned

Road Safety Minister Stephen Hammond has launched a public consultation on the use of foreign language voiceovers and interpreters on theory tests and practical driving tests.

The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) is reviewing the level of foreign language support available to candidates in response to concerns about potential road safety implications and the risk of fraud, as well as the cost of providing translations.

Mr. Hammond said: “We want to ensure that all drivers have the right skills to use our roads safely and responsibly. We also want to keep test fees to a minimum for candidates, and I am not convinced that providing translations is the most effective use of resources.

“There is a potential road safety risk of drivers not understanding important traffic updates or emergency information, but allowing interpreters on tests also presents the risk of fraud, for example if they are indicating the correct answers to theory test questions.”

Currently people whose first language is not English or Welsh can request pre-recorded voiceovers for the computer-based car and motorcycle theory tests in 19 different foreign languages.

Candidates can also use approved interpreters on theory tests, usually if a voiceover is not available in a candidate’s native language, or where a candidate speaks a dialect that would make a voiceover difficult to understand. Interpreters can also be used in practical tests to translate the examiner’s instructions.

Candidates have to pay for interpreters themselves, but the cost of developing and updating voiceovers for the theory test is met by DSA.

The consultation sets out four options: removing voiceovers (except English and Welsh) on the theory test and the use of interpreters on all tests; removing voiceovers (except English and Welsh) on the theory test but retaining the use of interpreters on all tests; removing interpreters on both theory and practical tests but retaining the use of voiceovers on theory tests; and making no change.

Any change to the current arrangements will be subject to the outcome of the consultation, which runs for eight weeks.

The consultation is available at: www.gov.uk/government/consultations/driving-test-language-support