Driving tests and learning to drive – news story

Foreign language driving tests end

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Driving test candidates will now no longer be able to use foreign language voiceovers and interpreters on their test.

The changes, announced today (7 April 2014) by Transport Minister Stephen Hammond, follows a public consultation.

The changes will mean that candidates will now no longer be able to:

  • take their car and motorcycle theory tests with a voiceover in 1 of 19 foreign languages
  • use interpreters on theory tests and practical tests

“The right skills to use our roads”

Stephen Hammond, Transport Minister said:

It is essential that all road users have the right skills to use our roads safely and responsibly. By stopping driving tests in foreign languages we will cut out the risk of fraud, and help to ensure that all drivers can read road signs and fully understand the rules of the road.

Preventing driving test fraud

The decision also reflects concerns about interpreters helping candidates cheat on their theory tests by feeding them the correct answers.

Since 2008, more than 1,300 theory test passes have been revoked after investigations into fraudulent interpreters.

Between February 2008 and December 2009, more than 20% of all theory tests taken with an interpreter were found to be fraudulent, with 1 interpreter conducting 586 fraudulent tests.

Last year, 2 interpreters were each jailed for 12 months for helping learners cheat on their tests.

Review of foreign language support

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) consulted last year on a series of proposals reviewing the level of foreign language support available to candidates.

This was in response to concerns about:

  • potential road safety implications
  • the risk of fraud
  • the cost of providing translations

Almost 2,000 people had their say on the proposals.

Support for the withdrawal of foreign languages

More than 70% of the people who responded supported the withdrawal of foreign language voiceovers and interpreters on tests.

Many people agreed that a lack of understanding of the national language meant that some drivers may not be able to:

  • understand traffic signs
  • speak with traffic enforcement officers
  • read details of the rules of the road

There was also support for encouraging candidates to learn the national language to improve social cohesion.

Candidates with special needs

Candidates with dyslexia or other reading difficulties will still be able to take their theory test with an English or Welsh language voiceover.

Candidates who are deaf or have hearing difficulties will still be able to:

  • take their theory test in British sign language (BSL)
  • take a BSL interpreter with them on their practical test

More information about the tests