Driver's License Rules Allow Non-English Written Exam

By Watanabe, June | Honolulu Star - Advertiser, May 23, 2012 | Go to article overview

Driver's License Rules Allow Non-English Written Exam


Watanabe, June, Honolulu Star - Advertiser


Question: My daughter got involved in a fender-bender, and we are in a case of "he said, she said." Thank goodness nobody got hurt. But the other driver could not speak English, and the police and my daughter had to wait for his wife to come to translate what happened. How can someone get a driver's license without being able to speak (and I assume write) English? Doesn't he have to take a written exam and a road test? How can I put in an official complaint with the city or state?

Answer: Without knowing the exact circumstances of the man's license, we can't respond to how he obtained it or with whom you should file a complaint.

Written general knowledge tests for driver's licenses are offered only in English, said Dennis Kami­mura, administrator of the city Motor Vehicle and?Licensing Division.

However, drivers are offered this option (see www1.honolulu.gov/csd/vehicle/dlinformation.htm): "If you are unable to read and/or write and understand the English language, provisions may be made for an oral examination (restrictions may apply)."

That does not mean an applicant is allowed to bring an interpreter, as in some mainland jurisdictions.

"The oral examination is conducted in English," Kami­mura said. "The staff reads the question and provides the optional answers."

During the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011, 459 oral tests were administered to non-English speakers as well as to English speakers who had difficulty reading.

Beyond that you may be surprised to learn there are provisions for the written exam to be given in a foreign language.

Section 19-122-10(h), Hawaii Administrative Rules of the state Department of Transportation, provides that "an applicant who has difficulty understanding the English language may be examined in the language chosen from those available and approved by the director in any of the knowledge tests except the hazardous materials endorsement test. …

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