English Only Driver’s Licenses

Part of me thinks this is pandering to xenophobes in an election year, part of me thinks if you’re gonna drive in Atlanta, “I75 Left two Lanes Only” needs to be understood by everyone.



  1. B Balz says:

    I think anyone who can master the of scuba diving should be able to get their certification — It doesn’t have to be in English.


  2. Melb says:

    Signs are all in English even when taking the test in another language. So a stop sign would be a red octogon with STOP in the middle, but the description of what to do would be in another language. This is actually beneficial to public safety. The written portion of the exam would be administered in another language.

    Even Alabama allows for translation into 4 other languages!

    • ByteMe says:

      So if Alabama offers other languages, what Republicans are doing here is pandering. QED.

      It’s good to have the lowest common denominator right next door.

      • Henry Waxman says:

        Macho does raise a good point. There are approximately 6,700 languages spoken (and clicked) in the world. Why stop at just four, Alabama.


  3. Red Phillips says:

    And part of me thinks that the use of the slur xenophobe is pandering to the forces of politically correct rightthink. Please provide me a single example of a person who is clinically phobic to foreigners.

    • seenbetrdayz says:

      This is obviously racist against the British.

      No I will not adapt my language to replace “torch” for “flashlight” and “lorry” for “truck”! We should not cater to foreigners!

    • rugby says:

      “Please provide me a single example of a person who is clinically phobic to foreigners.”

      There is no way you are this dumb.

      • benevolus says:

        I know, right? What is that, an attempt to show that xenophobia doesn’t exist? And the purpose of that would be…. oh yeah, it’s OK to hate foreigners because there isn’t a valid name for it?

  4. Game Fan says:

    Couldn’t some private group fund some “English to ….” dictionaries or something? If a person can “get by” on the road how about during the written portion of the driver’s test?

  5. John Konop says:

    This is an interesting issue. I have traveled around Europe driving a car and did not know the language. And I have friends with jobs overseas in the same situation.

    I do think someone should know the signs, but as to what degree they need to know the language is a separate issue.

    Immigration should be based on the best and brightest helping our country build the economy if we do not have Americans to fill the job. But immigration should not be about excluding people they do not look, sound or have the exact religious beliefs as the majority.

    • Republican Lady says:

      I agree with you. For safety’s sake, I think they should take the signs test in English and the rest in their native language. You make some good points.

  6. Jeremy Jones says:

    Interesting side note.

    A former employee of mine just went to get his CDL. He cannot read. The test was given to him orally. He passed.

    Now, I understand the argument for not requiring reading for your everyday run of the mill driver’s license, but, I really prefer those driving 18 wheels to be able to read the sign that says “No 18 wheelers on these hairpin turns.”

    As we live on the border, I do not know if he got his in TN or GA, I believe GA, for that is where he lived last time I signed a paycheck for him.

    • Henry Waxman says:

      Excuse me for not doing the research on my own, but what kind of business do you run that allows you to employ illiterate people?

      • ByteMe says:

        I’ve worked with several large corporations where my points of contact included people who were not literate. It’s quite common in lower-tech manufacturing environments.

      • Jeremy Jones says:

        It was a manufacturing company, not my current business.

        He could do just about anything in the shop, except read. Repetitive tasks were his strong point.

        Oddly, he could read a tape measure, something many could not do.

        • benevolus says:

          I’ve worked with guys like that to. They could cut plywood all day and build stuff, but couldn’t fill out their own time card.

  7. Progressive Dem says:

    This bill has little to do with safety and is primarily an attempt to make life more difficult for illegal immigrants. (That’s good pandering.) In the process it will make like difficult for legal immigrants and senior management of foreign owned companies doing business in Georgia. Welcome South Brother.

  8. Progressive Dem, Senior management of foreign owned corporations who are here on visa can keep and use their foreign driver’s licenses. It’s no different than a student who comes to school in Georgia but keeps their FL license. Also, if they are an executive of a foreign business, it is VERY likely they were selected to mange US operations because they are fluent in English.

    • rugby says:

      “it is VERY likely they were selected to manage US operations because they are fluent in English.”

      Yeah, not true in so many ways.

  9. benevolus says:

    The question is, are they going to drive anyway? You cannot assume that because they don’t have a license, they aren’t going to drive.

    • macho says:

      Probably true, many already drive without insurance. I do know in Hall County, where the Sheriff is participating in the ICE program that Obama is trying to stop, that the amount of Hispanic taxis has gone through the roof. Because if they pull you over, and you’re here illegally, it’s adios.

  10. chefdavid says:

    Can you explain to me why under this bill a Korean Wife( now a US Citizen) of a US service man will have to walk to the grocery, but a visitor working at the KIA plant can have their test tranlated? This was kind of taken from: http://www.tennessean.com/article/20100328/OPINION01/3280342/1009

    We live in a parrellel universe:
    read the exemptions in the GA bill. It only penalizes non english speaking US Citizens.
    I am glad my senator is spending his time on sponsoring such a bill instead of working on transportation funding.

      • ByteMe says:

        From the DDS FAQ:

        The Road Rules portion of the Knowledge Exam is available in the following foreign languages: Arabic, Spanish, Chinese, French, German, Bosnian, Japanese, Korean, Laos, Polish, and Russian. The Road Sign Test, however, is only available in English. All drivers must have the ability to read and understand simple English such as used in highway traffic and directional signs.

        There’s also a provision in the law that illiterates get to take the road rules exam orally. I’d assume that option is in the languages known by the test administrators.

  11. bgsmallz says:

    Why does it matter if they can read English perfectly if they can identify the same street signs in English that the rest of us would have to identify on the test?

    I’m sorry, but this is really just a political stance on illegal immigration (or just Spanish speaking persons in GA?) rather than a public safety issue…and I, for one, am tired of politicians playing games with bills like a drivers license test rather than just coming out and saying what they mean…which in this case is, we want to put any non-English speaking person at a disadvantage compared to us ‘native’ folk.

    Screw this guy. Seriously…if any of you have ever bemoaned the reputation of being backwoods or cried about the press portraying GA as redneck, now is your chance to soundly reject this idea. Send this jack-leg packing for trying to pander to those who think this country is ‘better off’ without immigrants from the south (legal, illegal, or otherwise).

    If Forsyth Co./Cumming ever wants to shed the image of those racists who threw rocks at Oprah in the 80s and who still hang their flags from their homes on GA-369 and Oak Grove Cir….they can do it now by soundly rejecting this Senator and his bill and sending him packing in November for someone with integrity and common sense enough to engage in the debate rather than pulling an end around disguised as public safety.

    • B Balz says:

      @DNA Did you say “Why?”

      Via AJC:

      “…bill designed to prevent anyone from taking the Georgia driver’s license test in any language other than English… Currently, a Georgia driver’s license test can be administered in one of 13 different languages. SB 67, pushed by Sen. Jack Murphy of Cumming, would limit those languages to just English… ”

      This is so lame. Overseas where multiple languages are the norm, standardized signage is used. The US doesn’t use internationally recognized signage. I am OK with that.

      But why change the fact the exam is given as English only?

      Moronic. Embarrassing.

      The vessel that the Forsyth Chamber of Commerce often uses for their functions is named Amistad. Need I say more?

      • AubieTurtle says:

        If they are really concerned about road safety, seems like the better solution would be to have an additional section on the non-English versions of the tests that emphasizes comprehension of the particulars of our road signs, especially those signs that are heavily dependent on text rather than images.

  12. Jane says:

    A racist attempt to keep ATL public school students from Driving, Think of it requiring drivers to know how to read and write.

  13. chefdavid says:

    They will argue we are going to save GA tax payers money.
    and then we have the exemption. A legal Cuban resident won’t be able to get a liscense but these will:

    (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, an applicant who presents in person valid documentary evidence of:(1) Admission to the United States in a valid, unexpired nonimmigrant status;(2) A pending or approved application for asylum in the United States;(3) Admission into the United States in refugee status;(4) An approved application for temporary protected status in the United States;(5) Approved deferred action status;(6) Other federal documentation verified by the United States Department of Homeland Security to be valid documentary evidence of lawful presence in the United States under federal immigration law; or(7) Verification of lawful presence as provided by Code Section 40-5-21.2may be issued a temporary license, permit, or special identification card. Such temporary license, permit, or special identification card shall be valid only during the period of time of the applicant’s authorized stay in the United States or three years, whichever occurs first

    So if they will still have to have a test ready how will this save money?

  14. chefdavid says:

    I guess I should shut my mouth. We have to drive about 45 minutes to get one here. It would be easier to get one in Hamilton Co. TN, or Dekalb Co., AL. We have that border fence in Georgia called Lookout Mt. It is the border from Atlanta.

  15. macho says:

    We’ve got millions of citizens that are here illegally and some folks are saying, “What about a few German dudes that might be here on business.” If this will make life more difficult for the millions of foreign citizens, who are trampling all over our immigration laws, and help encourage them to go back to their countries then I’m all for it. It’s time to either start enforcing our immigration laws, or get rid of them, and quit operating under the illusion that citizenship means something.

    • ByteMe says:

      Since this is a Georgia law, please explain how we have “millions” here who are illegal but planning to walk into a state driver’s license facility and risk arrest.

    • benevolus says:

      People who are here illegally and want to drive have a fake license already anyway. They don’ need no stinkin’ test.

  16. Tinkerhell says:

    I have no problem with it other than it’s a half arsed attempt at what needs to be done.

    Make english the official language of the USA (or in thie case Georgia) all official government docs must be in that language.

    Why is that so difficult? Why is it such a horrible thing to demand that anyone who wants to be a part of this country have a passable skill with our spoken and written language?

    If you are a person that needs to have a US/GA state drivers license then you need to speak & read english. If you are here on some form of a visa or similar then a license from your native country suffices.

    • ByteMe says:

      Studies have shown that within 3 generations, all immigrants — either legal or not — are totally assimilated into our society. Immigrants have always been the source of our strength and renewal as a nation.

      Yes, let’s make it harder on them, so that white English speaking people can feel better about themselves.

    • rugby says:

      When speaking English you capitalize the names of all languages so it is English not “english”, lest you wish to confuse people and make them think you are referring to a technique in billiards.

      That said, I think English is the official language of Georgia, but having an official language does jack all to solve language barriers between natives and non-natives. In fact it often creates more problems.

  17. MSBassSinger says:

    Would that be generic American English or English as found in the Redneck Dictionary Jeff Foxworthy made famous? 🙂

    I’d be happy if the driver’s test just did the following:
    Made sure the person could really drive and be able to read the variations of road signs.
    Required Yankees to have a “Yankee Driver” bumper sticker for the first 10 years they live here.
    Force the idiot drivers to take public transportation for a year after they execute their usual stupidity of self-centered, dangerous driving, or else give them a free, one-way airline ticket to where they came from.

    • ByteMe says:

      Having driven in Boston in a snowstorm, I understand their rule about “he who hesitates gets hit”. Makes perfect sense once you get the hang of it.

      You know they would prefer it if we had better public transportation, because that’s what they’re used to using up north.

      • MSBassSinger says:

        Living as far as I do from Atlanta, and still having to go into Atlanta weekly to work, I would love to pick up a train in Canton and ride into Atlanta. The XPress buses are not restroom equipped (for a 50 mile trip – go figure), so that isn’t an option.

        When I lived in Chicago in ’72, the trains were a great way to get around. Chicago is also where I first learned to drive in snow.

        • ByteMe says:

          I would also love for you to be able to pick up a train in Canton, Marietta, Kennesaw, Acworth or any number of other locations up that corridor… but not enough of your fellow citizens are pushing for that yet.

  18. GOPGeorgia says:

    Europe has an international drivers license available. Europe might be roughly the same size as the US, but I have heard there are lots of languages that are spoken over there, too.

    We either need to embrace this bill as a sign that immigrants, legal, or illegal, Spanish, German, or whatever speaking, should learn that the government in Georgia uses the English language as it’s official language of communicating with it’s citizens and visitors, OR we need to offer everything in multiple languages including teachers in schools, legal notices in the newspapers, paramedics and police officers, and the list goes on.

    How much more in extra taxes are you willing to pay so that we offer multiple languages available for government services and government service providers?

    Just because Alabama does something, does mean that we should? They should follow our lead.

    • MSBassSinger says:

      This discussion is about those who move to Georgia to live permanently, not visitors.

      If I were to move to France, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Japan, China, or Italy to live and work, I know that my success there would be quite dependent on my ability to speak the language and understand the customs. I would not expect the government to go to expense, and force it upon ts citizens, to accommodate my unwillingness to learn the language and fit into the national culture.

      Those who come to the US to live should hear from every place they encounter America that they are expected to learn English and fit into the traditional American culture in their public discourse. If they choose not to, then they should understand they are choosing to make their life here harder, and make success harder to come by. Previous generations of immigrants understood this, and understood American exceptionalism. That is why they came here.

      Multiculturalism makes a country weak, not strong. Learning and understanding other cultures and learning at least a 2nd language are things that should be taught in our schools. That is not multiculturalism. Pretending that other cultures have some equivalence to the traditional American culture is at the core of multiculturalism in the US, and that is destructive to our nation. No other culture in the history of man comes close to the traditional American culture.

      Making the driver’s test in English doesn’t further that goal. The goal should be that state government does its work in English alone, and within the traditional American culture. The exceptions would be those specific areas where it is in the best interest of the citizens to support multiple languages.

      • ByteMe says:

        Multiculturalism makes a country weak, not strong.

        So Japan — a VERY mono-cultural country — is stronger than us? I don’t think so. In fact, part of their issues is the insular nature of their mono-culturalism.

        And you probably like to eat in restaurants specializing in Thai, Chinese, Mexican… right? It’s part of our culture now because of immigrants bringing their ways to us to experience and embrace.

        The state government does indeed score the test in English, since it’s a multiple choice test. They just provide the test in other languages to make sure people truly understand the rules, which are the same rules in any language.

        • MSBassSinger says:

          Japan has a weak economy because they chose to Europeanize their economy (i.e. Keynesian economics) like the Obamacrats are doing to the US. Otherwise, they are a strong nation. You will find the same monoculturalism, sometimes taken too far, in Korea and many other countries.

          As long as the US (as a people and as a government) pressured immigrants to be assimilated, we were a strong nation.

          Enjoying restaurants that have the Americanized version of food from other cultures is not multiculturalism and you know it.

          Visitors don’t need drivers licenses. Residents do, and if one is going to live here, learn the language, get a driver, or take public transportation.

  19. I am curious; does anyone have any data that shows there are less accidents since licenses were “required” in order to drive “legally” … or are they just really revenue generators and another “control” too of “the man” ;-)?

    We don’t need no stinkn’ licenses… Do we? I would rather people actually learn to drive and provide some sort of proof…. not necessarily a license. I currently don’t believe the “test” really adequately tests ability, regardless of which language it is administered in.

    • ByteMe says:

      Without a license, if you did something illegal while behind the wheel, they’d have to arrest you and take you to jail while they verified your identity, because no one would be dumb enough to just take a (now) criminal’s word for it.

      • I was questioning license test v. ability to drive… not whether or not it was a useful ID tool… If that is it’s main purpose, then again I question the need/usefulness of the “test” and the cost/language associated with it.

        However, I understand the confusion factor when someone questions conventional wisdom… but I believe there could be HUGE savings in governance if it was done more often… as well as being a Liberty preserving activity.

        • ByteMe says:

          Being originally from the great State of Old People Who Can’t See/Hear But Need to Drive, I’m all for increasing the frequency and difficulty of tests, but mobility — which in this town means driving — is part of the economic engine, so you won’t see anyone try to get in front of that speeding train (to screw with the metaphors).

          • I think we might have just solved the underlying viability problem of mass transit as well as the traffic congestion issue. Too many people are allowed to drive. And being a privilege and not a right, I too would have no problem with the privilege of driving (on government owned roads) being limited by proven ability… wow, accidents do happen (literally and metaphorically, right?)

            • ByteMe says:

              Europe does it by putting high taxes on gas and cars to send an economic signal that trains are a better idea. I’ve always said I was fine with that approach as long as the trains are just as good and sell munchies 🙂

              • Our brains are just wired differently I guess… Here I was trying to help you get people of means but lacking ability on your trains, busses and car pools by using natural market pressures (including maybe privatizing licensing and holding licensors somewhat responsible/liable/accountable to limit licensing), but you can’t help yourself but use government taxing power/authority to force both means and ends. 🙂
                However, in this case, Europe was a good example. When I lived in Germany, I saw that people were required to go to driving school for a year or two in order to get their licenses… result was limited licenses issued because not everyone could afford it “chose” not to pay for it. But I’m sure if that was implemented here you and your socialist tendency buds would probably want to subsidies it and steal from/tax me to help pay for those “less fortunates” since they too should get ‘their fair share” of the licenses issued.

                It’s really hard to work with you 😉 Could you at least try to start with Freedom, then if absolutely necessary, I’ll join you at Government. OK?

                • ByteMe says:

                  Here’s the thing, though: the trains in Europe did not spring up out of nowhere or get funding from private owners or just from paying riders. Let’s see…. how did they get all those trains there? Mmmmm….. Oh, yes, SOCIALISM!!!! Aaauuughhh!!! It’s the BOOGEYMAN!!!

                  (I’m your boogeyman… yes I am… I’m here to do… whatever I can…)

                  So how do we pay for a great train system that picks up MSBass somewhere near where he lives and takes him into one of the city centers? Gotta have money. Lots of money. Billions. Not going to happen with private enterprise, because some serious land is going to need to be “taken” (fairly compensated, but taken just the same as the land that was taken for I-285) to make this happen and private enterprise can’t do that.

                  But I’m also fine with making it hard for high school students to get a driver’s license and a BMW as some people want to do for their spoiled brats. And I also think we need to test more as a person passes 60 years old and their reflexes slow down.

                  But we can’t do that until there’s a train system in place to replace the freedom to drive that we have now. And that’ll take money that the “leaders” in Georgia don’t want to commit, so this is really a moot argument.

  20. “You failed English? Bobby, you SPEAK English.”

    I took my first driver’s test in Georgia. If the test today is similar to what it was, knowledge of English probably isn’t a pre-requisite.

    On that note, after years of driving through Atlanta and the suburbs, I can tell you from personal experience that knowledge of the English language does not correlate to safer drivers who obey traffic laws or read signage accurately, where such signage exists at all.

  21. Melb says:

    Senator Murphy is trying to say this is about “public safety,” but then concedes that temporary visitors would not have to take the test in English, only those who wish to become permanent residents.

    So, if you know NO English except roadsigns to pass the test, but are present in GA less than 18 months = no threat to roads BUT

    If you know NO English except roadsigns to pass the test, but are present in GA more than 18 months = threat to roads.

    For some reason, I am just not buying this argument.

    Also @ GOPGeorgia – we will still have all the tests available in other languages we just only allow temporary license holders to take them. Therefore, the cost with providing these tests do not go away.

  22. Donna Locke says:

    Driving-while-illiterate is a public safety issue. My family has experienced its consequences, on the receiving end, more than once. This situation is also an unnecessary problem, hassle, and danger for law enforcement officers and a very expensive problem for all of us taxpayers.

    And of course, nationwide Babel is so unifying. Not.

    People who come to the United States on an immigration visa, or who manage to obtain permanent-resident status while here on a temporary visa (initially), or while here as refugees or asylees, or while here unlawfully, are granted that golden opportunity with our nation’s expectation that the applicants will become naturalized citizens. One of the requirements for U.S. citizenship is a working knowledge of English.

    Our immigration laws are written to prevent immigrants from becoming a burden on the American people. The American sponsors of immigrants or students, or the employers of guest workers, are supposed to be responsible for any burden that immigrants, students, or guest workers might pose. If these arrivals don’t know English — and many migrants today are illiterate in their native languages — then their sponsors and employers are supposed to take care of that.

    We could spend a lot of time counting the ways that massive, out-of-control immigration of non-English speakers has burdened us, because our laws and our traditional assimilation model (periods of reasonable immigration levels followed by periods of rest, i.e., even lower immigration) has been defeated.

    • ByteMe says:

      So the law that’s on the books requiring the DDS to give rules exams orally in case the person is illiterate, that law is ok or do you want to kick all those people off the road as well?

      • Donna Locke says:

        If you can’t read and understand the signs and understand directions, you should not be driving. I’m not counting on Jesus to take the wheel.

        • ByteMe says:

          You didn’t answer the question and you’re mistaking what is being discussed here. It’s not the signs portion that’s in anything other than English; only the rules test, the one that determines whether you know the law and that’s offered in the languages stated above, many of which are European and Asian languages.

          So should an illiterate who can tell you the law still not be allowed to get a license just because he can’t read enough to complete the rules portion of the test?

          • Donna Locke says:

            People who can’t read English should not be driving. People who can’t read and understand English should not be doing a lot of things in this country, such as loading oxygen canisters with English instructions on them into cargo holds of airplanes.

            • ByteMe says:

              The reason there’s oxygen is for those little masks that drop down in case of loss of pressure. We wouldn’t want that, would we?

              So maybe just being able to read English is not enough. People should also understand what they’re reading. Wow. Toss everyone out of the lifeboat now, including you certain anti-immigration commenters.

              • Donna Locke says:

                Last night in heavy traffic in the middle of the night, I drove through an obstacle course of road work, road changes, and other alterations on I-75 and I-24 — alterations that featured numerous temporary signs and directions in English. Though I could read the signs — and they had to be read and followed quickly — the situation was still difficult to follow, as was evidenced by a wreck we passed and others we have passed on that same stretch of road when the serpentine orange-barrel, lane-closing, detour race is on, and that race has been on for all the years I’ve driven that stretch.

                Is every possible sign/direction on the driving test? No. But if one can read English, s/he can follow the directions on the highway. Usually.

                There is no way that inability to read English is not a risk to others on the road.

                Victims and those who see what goes through our jails have an idea of how much of a risk this situation is, but government conveniently keeps no statistics on it.

                • Melb says:

                  Well then Donna, this bill is not for you because it allows temporary legal visitors (up to 18 months) who arguably know less English than permanent legal residents to take the test in their own language.

  23. erikvoss says:

    Someone suggested that all persons in Georgia be required to take the GA driver license test in the native language of Georgia. I kind of agree. Maybe the test should be translate into Cherokee, Creek, Miccosukee, Shawnee, and Yuchi … and I know that Cherokee has a written script.
    Seriously, while English is both the common and official language of Georgia, it is also a foreign language for Georgia.

    While driving is often purported to be a privilege rather than a right, it is difficult to live in most of Georgia without a car and being able to drive in order just to survive. Rather, access to taking the DL test must not be predicated on English proficiency. Equal access to citizens and permanent residents to apply for government services is a protected right that can not be denied on the basis of language proficiency per Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

    If illiterate persons can get a license by having the test read to them allowed (questions and answers), which is technically a form of interpretation, why should anyone not be able to have the test interpreted to them from English to any language? Would it not be a significant double standard?

    Since the sign test is in English only already, this should satisfy the requirement for understanding the signs of the roads.

    But why should GA simply now dispose of existing work that was done translating the theoretical test into multiple languages?

    It this not, in essence, a punitive measure against persons who fall short of the ideal of English literacy for all in Georgia?

  24. benevolus says:

    I got hit by a guy from Ireland one time because he spaced out about what side of the road he was supposed to be on.

    • Icarus says:

      I think Matthew Broderick killed someone in Ireland doing the same thing once. Maybe this guy was just trying to get even on behalf of his country?

  25. Republican Lady says:

    Many colleges have gone to talking a mandatory foreign language in order to graduate. Depending on the college, I went to North Georgia College & State University for my last two degrees, a bachelor’s then a master’s, the choices are French (my choice), Spanish, and German. I wanted Latin but it was not offered.

    How many people on here think that is a good idea and how many are against a mandatory foreign language for college graduation?

    I am wondering if an immigrant has an International Driver’s License, if they have to get one of ours?

    • benevolus says:

      I don’t think there is an “International Drivers License”. The permit that you can get at AAA is just a translation saying that you have a valid US license. I know the EU is planning to do something, but I think that will be just for within the EU. If there is something else I am not aware of it.

  26. erikvoss says:

    There is no legally valid thing called an International Driver License.

    However, there IS a thing called an International Driving Permit that can be applied for before traveling international and will only be issued to holders of a valid license in their home country/state. That is valid only when presented with the valid home country/state license when traveling, is not valid in and of itself, and is used only as a helpful aid in translating your license into about ten languages so it can be understood by authorities who may want to review your driver license.

    While not mandatory, an International Driving Permit, can be helpful.

    See: http://www.drivers.com/article/206/ and http://www.aaa.com/vacation/idpf.html

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