Foreign drivers could be banned from using interpreters to help them through their tests to prevent cheating, under proposals unveiled by Stephen Hammond, the road safety minister
The Government is also ready to scrap pre-recorded voice-overs, currently available in 19 different languages including Polish and several from the Indian subcontinent.
Both options are contained in a Government consultation which will continue until the spring.
“There is a potential road safety risk of drivers not understanding important traffic updates or emergency information,” said Mr Hammond.
“Allowing interpreters on tests also presents the risk of fraud, for example if they are indicating the correct answers to theory test questions.”
According to the Driving Standards Agency nine official interpreters have been banned since 2009 and 861 successful tests have been revoked after evidence of cheating was found during the same period.
Changes in the driving test are designed to mimic real life, scrapping turn by turn directions. It is feared in some cases interpreters could be giving more help than they are supposed to.
With the theory test, interpreters are supposed to translate the questions but there have been occasions when it is believed they have provided the answers as well.
While the issue of fraud does not arise with voice-overs, it is believed that drivers living in Britain should be able to react to road traffic information on the radio or on gantries.
The move was welcomed by Edmund King, the AA’s president. “If the problem with interpreters is one of fraud then more spot checks should be carried out without interpreters to ascertain whether the candidate has been unduly aided. If the problem is to do with cost, then the full additional costs of the service should be met by the candidate.
“We need to balance the importance of learning to drive safely with the desire to help those whose maiden tongue is not English.
“Obviously all licence holders qualified in the UK will need to understand essential road signs and the Highway Code.”
Wlodzimierz Mier-Jedrzejowicz, the chairman of the Federation of Poles in Great Britain, described the proposals as sensible
“We feel that somebody coming to live and drive in Britain needs to know English and a translator should not be necessary.
“If they can’t tell the difference between Bradford and Bolton on a sign, they are going to slow down and bother people. Clearly they need to be able to understand information on roadside gantries.”
What do you think? Should interpreters be allowed for foreign drivers if they are necessary?