Government reviews use of foreign language aid on driving tests

The government has launched a consultation on the use of foreign language voiceovers and interpreters on theory tests and practical driving tests.

The move has been made after the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) raised concern about potential road safety implications and the risk of fraud, as well as the cost of providing translations.

Road Safety Minister Stephen 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."

Hammond added: "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 government has proposed various options for change: removing voiceovers and interpreters on all tests, removing voiceovers on all tests but keeping interpreters or removing interpreters on both theory and practical tests but keeping the use of voiceovers on theory tests.

It's clear the DSA is toughening up on UK driving tests as this time last year, new rules came into force that saw the multiple choice questions refreshed and banned from being published in their exact form in books and other electronic learning materials.

Any change to the current arrangements will be subject to the outcome of the consultation, which runs until 2 April 2013.

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