According to another Issue Memorandum presented by the Legislative Research Council to the Legislature’s Executive Board last month, South Dakota is one of just six states that offers driver license exams in English only:
South Dakota business leaders would like to change that, saying that the state’s refusal to offer new Americans the chance to take their driver exam in their home language is making it harder to hire licensed drivers. Senator Reynold Nesiba (D-15/Sioux Falls) offered Senate Bill 136 last winter to allow driver exams in other languages, and the Chamber of Commerce and general contractors testified for it, but Republicans ignored good business sense and listened instead to the absurd contention of the Department of Public Safety that translating and updating the exam into one other language would cost $62,000.
For $62,000, DPS could hire a full-time Spanish translator who could translate the exam and all three driving manuals (regular, motorcycle, and commercial) in a week, then spend the rest of the year fielding e-mails and phone calls from eager residents studying for the exam (“Sí, comprendo, los Aberdeeños estan locos. Durante la prueba, no conduzcan como ellos. Disminuir la velocidad para las amarillas, y parar para los rojos.”). Instead, Republicans play cheap, shifting far more than that cost onto thousands of drivers who must pay $60 a pop just for an interpreter to help with the test.
Multiple languages for driver exams are one place where business interests coincide with public safety and equality. Senator Nesiba, bring that bill back, and let’s follow the lead of most other states (as usual) in making safe and legal access to our roads available to all of our residents.